Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Why Didn't Steve Sweeney Let the Senate Vote on the Pension Amendment? (warning: more "Matrix allusions)

Because the math got in the way.

If Gov. Christie won’t sign onto a 23 cent gas tax increase without legislative approval of a sales tax decrease,  if pension payments outstrip New Jersey’s ability to maintain its tenuous hold on solvency, if public unions don’t agree to necessary tweaks to pension systems like moving from obsolete defined benefits plans to defined contributions plans (like a 401K), then there’s no way for N.J. to make those annual $4 billion pension payments that public approval of a constitutional amendment would require.

But impetuous NJEA leaders want the amendment on the ballot this year, instead of the far more rational plan of waiting a year for a new governor who would raise taxes enough to make the math work.

Here’s another mathematical aspect: if Sweeney had done the unions’ bidding and posted the amendment in the Senate yesterday, odds are that in November the amendment would have been voted down. I have profound respect for NJEA’s lobbying prowess, but New Jersey voters are smart. They know that allocating vastly larger amounts of state revenue to antediluvian pension systems will raid line items like public education and infrastructure.

We need more than an amendment to guarantee pension payments to union members. We need pension reform that doesn’t rely on antediluvian plans and absurd projections of 8% growth.

But NJEA leaders remain plugged into a Matrix of their own making and, as NJ Spotlight reports today, taunted Sweeney yesterday on State Street with shouts of “We’ll remember in November” and “Bye, Bye Sweeney." Wendell Steinhauer, the leader of the New Jersey Education Association, said "the union will now be looking to find leaders who lead instead of lie.”

But Steinhauer has it backwards. From all appearances, NJEA is looking for leaders who lie.

And that’s why they're eying gubernatorial-hopeful Phil Murphy.

Murphy, back from his villa in Italy, has been telling  NJEA lobbyists everything they want to hear. He’s their dream guy, their pipedream personified. N.J.’s school funding formula will be fully funded! (See Jeff Bennett on Murphy's complete misunderstanding [or duplicity] about the way we fund schools.) The state will make its annual full pension payments without any reform! If he were governor he would never have increased health benefits premium contributions! If he were governor he would never have frozen COLA payments!

Tom Moran sussed this out in June:
The core challenge for Murphy is this: If he tells the truth, he won't get elected. Because New Jersey is in a fiscal hole that is so deep tax increases and spending cuts are inevitable. The next governor will have to force feed the state its peas and carrots, somehow.
But NJEA doesn’t want the truth. The union wants lies and illusions, to remain in suspended animation in the Matrix.. That’s why they throw shade on Sweeney and cozy up to Murphy.

Let’s hope their members, who must include a fair number of math teachers, have better judgement.

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