The High Cost of Public Employees
New Jersey’s public employees contribute between 3 and 8 percent of their salaries toward their pensions, with most paying 5 percent. State and local government workers and retirees pay nothing or in some cases a modest amount for their healthcare benefits; they pay no deductible and a $5 co-payment for doctors' visits.
New Jersey’s public employees not only enjoy job security, but they receive salary and benefits exceeding those earned by private sector employees. The state’s public employees now earn an average of $54,600 a year while private sector workers average about $49,000.
The cost of public employees and their benefits are bankrupting the state. The state should be seeking a major reduction in the number of public employees and not permitting the tremendous growth in government jobs witnessed in recent years. The fastest growing employment sector in New Jersey is government, while higher paying private sector jobs are fleeing the state. The situation is completely out of control and totally unnecessary. Government employees no longer work for taxpayers – we work for them.
What will be done about the growth in government headcount and the unsustainable growth in public employee benefits? The usual political response is to form a task force and then raise taxes.
The Governor's Benefits Review Task Force is supposed to release a report shortly with recommendations for reining in the cost of public employee benefits. According to an article in the Asbury Park Press the task force will recommend:
Task Force Pension Benefit Reform Recommendations
- - Increase the retirement age for teachers and certain public employees from 55 to 60
- - Base pensions on the highest five years of salaries rather than the highest three years
- End pension boosting, such as sharp salary increases for favored employees shortly before retirement
- - End early retirement incentives
- - End pensions for nongovernment employees, such as private contractors and private-practice municipal attorneys
- - Deny pensions to public officials convicted of crimes
- - State and local government should fully fund pension obligations
- - End pension bonding in which the state borrows money based on the pension funds
- - End accounting tricks which make the pension systems look more solvent than they are
Task Force Medical Insurance Reform Recommendations
- - All retirees and current employees should contribute at least 5 percent toward the cost of health insurance
- - Merge state health plans to save an estimated $104 million
- - Increase the use of generic drugs for prescriptions
The majority of state lawmakers owe their jobs to public employee unions and as government employees enjoy the same benefits plans, don’t expect any new state laws written to help taxpayers.
Stephen Wollmer, spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association teachers union, said while the elimination of abuses is a goal everyone can support, any benefit cuts "would be a hard sell for our members."More than 200,000 active and retired teachers are in the pension system, and "they fought hard for the benefits and we believe they are well-deserved," Wollmer said. The incentives help retain talented employees, he said.Meanwhile taxpayers are on the hook for $24+ billions for the under funded pension plans, a $5 billion hole in the state’s budget in large part caused by spiraling medical insurance costs and of course the highest in the nation property taxes.. Any extra costs – read taxes – imposed upon the rest of us, is apparently considered fair.
Alan Kaufman, legislative political coordinator for the Communications Workers of America union, which represents 50,000 state, county and local government employees, said any extra costs imposed on workers would be unfair.
Maybe taxpayers should unite and go on strike. How about a Pork Busters campaign for New Jersey?