I have neglected this website since the election. It is not because there has not been any notable news, but I was biding my time, watching. But today the newspapers were full of great articles assuring me that I made the right decision in campaigning for, and voting for Chris Christie.
Sweeping Pension Changes
On NJ.com today there was an article that offers a gleam of hope for New jersey’s cash-strapped pension and health systems.
Gov. Chris Christie and lawmakers of both parties will unveil a series of sweeping pension and benefit reforms Monday that could affect every public employee in New Jersey while saving the state billions of dollars, according to four officials with direct knowledge of the plan.
The proposals would require workers and retirees at all levels of government and local school districts to contribute to their own health care costs, ban part-time workers at the state and local levels from participating in the underfunded state pension system, cap sick leave payouts for all public employees and constitutionally require the state to fully fund its pension obligations each year.
This four-part plan has bi-partisan support. Even the astute Stephen Sweeney and Barbara Buono seem to be in support of many of the reforms being proposed. These reforms were tried before, but Jon Corzine scuttled and emasculated them in deference to the union powers that be.
Christies seems to be going full steam-ahead on such reforms that I have advocated heartily as denying benefits to part-timers, and requiring a minimum of 32 hour work-weeks for full-time employees. Employees would be required to actually submit payments (a mere 1.5% of their salary) towards their health plans – the unions are already rallying to quash this inhuman demand!
Pensions would be based on the five highest years of income rather than the current three – hopefully killing the plans of many Jon Corzine loyalists that were appointed during his last week in office in order to scavenge even more public money for themselves. This is all great news – we will continue to watch the progress of these bills as the unions launch a full-blown hate-campaign filled with misinformation.
Chris has wasted no time wielding his veto pen – sending political lackeys used to business as usual in New Jersey scurrying back to cover their arses.
The Press of Atlantic City ran an editorial today lauding Chris’s refusal to allow commissions to squander money. If only Cumberland County’s Lou Magazzu would take a lesson from Chris and actually READ the minutes of the board meetings, maybe he would not be blindsided by the shenanigans of the people that he has appointed and that continue to steal from the residents of the county. You see, Chris (or his staff, it doesn’t matter who as long as it gets done) actually READ the minutes of commission meetings prior to the Governor approving them. And it doesn’t look like Chris is happy!
Gov. Chris Christie has lost no time establishing this reputation: He’s going to be a hands-on, aggressive governor, willing to use every power of his office to push forward his agenda and cut government spending.
In less than a month in office, Christie has vetoed the minutes of three authorities – sending the clear message that these so-called “independent authorities” can’t spend millions upon millions of dollars independent of the governor’s approval.
Chris vetoed the minutes of the DRBA – an authority that has close ties to the corrupt Lou Magazzu machine in Cumberland County, because of a lack of clarification of $25,000 of payments to vendors. Yeah – that means this money went out the back door with no paperwork. He vetoed the minutes of the state UEZ because of a “questionable $415,608 expenditure”. And…
Christie vetoed the minutes of the Jan. 6 Schools Development Authority in which it approved an additional $1.2 million in change orders for work at Burlington City High School. The project has ballooned from $28.7 million to $46.4 million: “I’m not paying for these extraordinary, exorbitant overruns,” said Christie.
Chris is looking to expand his veto powers to the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission where 96 commission members receive six-figure salaries. And that is the main problem with these quasi-governmental, independent authorities – until now they ran without any government oversight, being allowed to run rampant and squander taxpayer money as if it came off of printing presses in their garage.
Christie Cleaning up Corzine’s Mess
And finally, there is an article from yesterday’s NJ.com:
A highly-touted program to pare the state payroll by offering early retirement to workers failed to produce the predicted savings and has strained departments that help New Jersey cope with the economic crisis, a review by The Star-Ledger has found.
The buyout program, announced with fanfare two years ago by Gov. Jon Corzine, prompted 1,492 people to take early retirement — but only 653 of them held positions that were fully funded by state taxpayers, according to data obtained under the Open Public Records Act. The rest held jobs funded by the federal government, dedicated funds or other sources.
That means the state is saving about $49.9 million on annual salaries financed solely by New Jersey taxpayers — short of Corzine’s $90 million goal. The bulk of the savings — $63.7 million — has come from jobs the state didn’t pay for.
At the same time, the workers who left — though fewer than the expected 2,144 — added a nearly $185 million long-term cost to the state pension system.
Corzine just might go down in history as the biggest disappointment as a NJ Governor. The title of worst governor is still a toss-up between Florio and McGreevey. Corzine certainly ran on experience that was overrated, and was elected only because of his supposed business acumen. When it came down to brass tacks, however, he proved that he was a feeble negotiator and confirmed our suspicions that he was beholden to labor interests even if those interests were counter-productive and hurt the average New Jersey resident.
All in all, Chris has done much to impress in the one month that he has taken office. And while these actions are not a panacea to the states fiscal woes, they are a step in the right direction, and the absolute FIRST time in my memory that a governor has actively worked to correct malfeasance at a statewide level.