Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-13), St. Peter’s University Dean of School Education Joe Doria, NJ Attorney General Section Chief Ann Lascurain and Americans for Prosperity NJ State Director Jedynak discussed solutions for New Jersey’s public pension shortfall of over $40 billion dollars during a panel last night.
The panel mostly involved proposing solutions to New Jersey’s pension problem and their opinion on the solutions proposed by state Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-3) and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-23) regarding a constitutional amendment to require quarterly pension payments by the state.
Jedynak offered a solution to “cut the bleeding and move to offer 401K’s for new employees.”
She also firmly believes that the proposed amendment was very dangerous as its language could “freeze all benefits.”
Doria first pointed out that the state needs to know what the real deficit is before they can then move forward.
Doria, also a former NJ Assembly Speaker and Bayonne mayor, proposed “economic development in the state to provide the income, the tax revenue to pay our obligation.”
Anna Lascurain, the section chief at the New Jersey Attorney General’s office, wasn’t fully against the amendment but added that “a debt is a debt.”
Lascurain argued that people pay into a pension system that they consider an important viable part of their lives.
“We took a lot less money to work for the government.”
O’Scanlon explained his plan of filling the “$47 billion dollar hole” by having state workers pay more “out of pocket” for their health care and going from a platinum plan to a gold double plan.
“If you go from platinum level plan to gold level plans employers would still have health care plans better than most private sectors and play less for them,” explained O’Scanlon.
During the forum, he gave a detailed description of his proposal, calling it a way to save over “$590 million a year.”
Doria confirmed that this plan also included decreasing the cost of prescription drugs given to state programs.
Politico’s Ryan Hutchins, the panel moderator, reminded O’Scanlon that Prieto has criticized his proposal.
The assemblyman explained that eventually “everyone” will have to accept his proposal because with all due respect to his “good friend” Prieto has “no plan.”
Last summer, Prieto was aggressive in trying to get a $300 million payment made to the state’s pension system, but Gov. Chris Christie (R) ultimately vetoed the move.
During the forum, one frustrated resident from Freehold called it nothing more than a road show.
“I think this whole thing is a farce, I think you are doing a little road show and the democrat (state Senator Brian Stack, D-33) didn’t even show up!”
He focused on O’Scanlon and explained “I’ve been coming to your meetings and nothing will ever come of it.”
In closing, the man looked at the entire board and stated, “You are all servants of the union.”
Bill Armbruster, a Jersey City resident, asked the panelists what the chances are of getting anything done this coming year.
O’ Scanlon answered frankly that “it’s not high.”
The constitutional amendment on the pension problem was planned to appear on this year’s ballot, but state Sweeney decided to pull the question at the last minute since tax cuts were necessary to compensate for the rise in gas tax and also to help replenish the Transportation Trust Fund.
Guarini Institute Executive Director Leila Sadeghi explained that Stack, also the Union City mayor who was advertised as a panelist, was “unable to attend due to a very last minute issue in Union City that he had to tend to.”