NJEA Demands More of Your Tax Dollars
By Seth Grossman, Political Columnist
??? Every year since Democrat Governor Jim McGreevey became governor in 2002, New Jersey has increased state taxes by about $2 billion each year.?? The overall state budget has gone up about 8% to 10% each year, more than double the rate of inflation.
??? To pay for these massive budget hikes, income taxes on the ?truly wealthy? have gone to 9.6%, the highest in the country.?? The sales tax has gone to 7%.?? Room taxes on motels went from 6% to 11%.?? Taxes on drinks in Atlantic City taverns have gone from 6% to 11%.?? The 7% sales tax now applies to many things that were never taxed before.?? Taxes on real estate transfers were greatly increased, causing price increases on houses and everything we buy.?? Taxes and fees on dozens of other things were hiked, including a $50 hike in the court filing fee to get a divorce!?? More tax hikes of $2 to $4 billion dollars are needed next year.
??? One reason New Jersey needs massive tax hikes year after year, is to cover the more than $2 billion cost of pensions for public school teachers, state, and local employees.?? This cost gets bigger and bigger as more babyboomers retire.
??? Public employees blame the pension costs on Republican Governor Christie Whitman.?? It is true that for several years during the 1990 stock bubble, Governor Whitman and a Republican Legislature failed to put state money into the pension system.?? But it is also true, that in 2001, the public employee unions bullied a lame duck Republican legislature into hiking all pensions by 9% when the stock market was collapsing and the pension fund was broke!
??? Last October, the Democrat-run state legislature – with the support of Democrat Governor Jon Corzine – proposed several modest proposals to slightly reduce pension benefits for future public school teachers and state and county employees.?? Those proposals include the following:
?1.? Retired public school employees with 25 years of employment must pay for some of their health care benefits while retired.?? (Right now, they pay nothing!)
?2.? Public school employees with 25 years of employment can no longer collect their full pensions at age 55.
?3.? Public employees cannot collect pensions until they are 62.?? (Now they can collect at age 60.)
?4.? The 9% pension increases of 2001 will be eliminated for all public employees who have not yet retired.
?5.? Pension benefits will be calculated based on the highest five years of employment, and not the highest three years.
?6.? All active public employees must pay for some portion of their health care premiums.
??? These proposals are VERY modest.?? They are long overdue.?? They will not fix the pension budget mess.?? They will only save small amounts of money.
??? But in spite of this, all of the public employees have gone on the warpath.?? Here are some quotations from the NJEA (Public School Employees Union) Reporter for December, 2006.?? This newspaper is mailed each month to 196,000 current and retired public school employees.
??? A message from NJEA President Joyce Powell:
??????? “NJEA has mustered the full resources of the organization to oppose these harmful proposals. …?? NJEA adamantly opposes state-imposed premium sharing for health benefits. …?? If the Legislature attempts to trample on collective bargaining rights, lawmakers should expect severe opposition from NJEA members across the state.?? Active and retired employees who have been promised paid health benefits in retirement as a form of deferred compensation will be equally staunch in defending their earned benefits.
??????? “While most changes to the pension system can only be applied to future employees, NJEA recognizes that a two-tiered system is inherently unfair and illogical.?? Further, it threatens to divide our association when we must remain unified. …?
??????? “These proposals represent nothng less than a wholesale overhaul of the pension system designed to snatch savings out of the pockets of retired public servants.?
??????? “These are not just compensation issues.?? They are school quality issues.?? If the state succeeds in forcing these changes, it will make public education a much less attractive career option.?? New Jersey?s public schools will find it increasingly difficult to attract and retain the best quality professionals to serve our students.
??????? “I urge all NJEA members to join other state employees in a massive demonstration at the State house in Trenton on Monday, December 11.?? Please contact your local association for information on how to participate in this rally.? You can get more information about all of NJEA?s efforts at www.njea.org.
???? “The future of our profession is at stake.?? Please stand up for yourself, your colleagues, and your students, who count on us to provide great public schools for New Jersey.”