The state treasurer announced today that the state pension shortfall is at an all-time high.
As reported by The Star-Ledger, the shortfall grew by more than $8 billion over the last fiscal year to about $53.9 billion -- an astronmical number that dwarfs the state's annual budget. All told, the state pension system, the story says, "is 62 percent funded."
The report offered the Christie administration an opportunity to continue its push for pension reform, which State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff said include "rolling back a 9 percent increase in pensions given by the Legislature in 2001, and upping workers’ contributions to 8.5 percent across the board," according to the paper.
“Unchecked, the cost of this impossible burden will fall not just on the taxpayers of today, but on future generations of New Jerseyans,” he said.That governor, he plays hard ball. He also is proving to be an ideological hack who seems unconcerned with the facts of the pension crisis. Remember, the governor followed in the footsteps of nearly every predecessor going back to the early days of the Whitman administration by failing to pay into the pension system. The $3.1 billion pension payment he didn't make accounts for nearly 40 percent of the growth in the unfunded obligation.
And the governor, as Chris Hayes pointed out the other night on Countdown, seems prepared to default on the state's obligations to its workers -- cops and firefighters, teachers and roadworkers, secretaries and others -- rather than a) asking taxpayers for more money or b) getting in the bondholders' faces.
As Dean Baker, an economist with the left-leaning Center for Economic Policy and Research, point out, the pensions are contractual obligations, a promise made to the people who work for the various levels of government in the state. Threatening default -- or at least alluding to it -- is irresponsible and morally questionable. It is blackmail, plain and simple, and just more evidence that this supposedly no-nonsense governor is really just a bully.