Carla Katz is on A Roll
As the Philadelphia Inquirer noted, one of the basic requirements for receiving state employee health-care benefits in New Jersey usually is that you have to work for the state - unless of course you’re a state employee union leader.
Last month a bill was passed, without debate, by New Jersey’s Legislature and signed into law by acting Governor Codey that allows certain union leaders and their staff members to take part in the State Health Benefits Plan - a program well-known for its excellent coverage and low out-of-pocket costs.
The state employee union leaders have been claiming for years this little perk would not produce any additional costs for the state. Well, that’s not the way former Governor McGreevey saw the same deal when he vetoed a similar measure two years ago.
In fact, according to the Star-Ledger of Newark, McGreevey's legal counsel warned that the bill would not be cost-neutral because unions could push employees with higher health-care costs into the state program - resulting in higher premiums for everyone else and making taxpayers responsible for the least healthy union mployees.As the majority of state employees do not contribute to their health insurance premiums, that high premium cost will be paid by New Jersey taxpayers.
McGreevey's office also warned that the number of eligible employees could balloon and that it would be difficult to discern who was working "exclusively" on state issues and who was not.
If all of that were not bad enough, this law may compound financial problems facing the state health-care plan. Fred Beaver, head of the Division of Pensions and enefits, has estimated that the cost for state health benefits will rise from $2.1 billion next ear to $4.1 billion by 2010. To put that in context, the state's entire budget for last year was only $28 billion. It makes no fiscal sense to add a new class of nongovernment employees to a government program that is facing major fiscal hurdles in the years to come.It doesn’t hurt if you’re a “good friend” of Jon Corzine’s either. Carla Katz is on a roll: housing – check, health insurance – check. We wonder what it would cost to have Carla Katz negotiate for New Jersey’s taxpayers? What Carla wants, Carla gets.
The real losers here are the taxpayers of New Jersey. When the state's health-insurance costs go up because of this measure, the state will be forced to raise taxes - again. In the end, taxpayers will be left paying a higher bill just so more union workers - who do not even work for the state - can get state benefits.
If nongovernment union workers want state health benefits, they can go about it the old-fashioned way: apply for state jobs. Just because you have powerful political friends in state government should not mean you get the same benefits as those who actually work for the public.