The reformer

Although he sells himself that way, Gov. Chris Christie is not a “reformer.” He simulates being candid, but uses that illusion to cloak a host of crooked problems he’d be hard pressed to explain. And he’s the big hope of the Republican party? Gee, I hope so:

How can anybody fill 88 pages on New Jersey’s fiscal catastrophe and not once use the word “corruption”? That is what authors of the State Budget Crisis Task Force New Jersey Report managed to do.

DIPPERS: Of all factors pushing New Jersey off its own self-inflicted fiscal cliff, the biggest is the hidden pension debt built up over decades.

The report, released Thursday, outlines much of the malfeasance and nonfeasance of state and local politicians over the decades that put the state with the highest taxes in one of the deepest holes of public debt.

But the C-word is nowhere to be found.

Of all factors pushing New Jersey off its own self-inflicted fiscal cliff, the biggest is the hidden pension debt built up over decades.

That totals more than $25 billion based on delusional official accounting.

According to the report, “… the governor and the legislature made major changes to scale back pension benefits, including suspending COLAs for retirees and requiring increased employee contributions. As a result of these changes, the state’s unfunded liability was reduced by 30 percent from $37.1 billion to $25.6 billion, which increased the system’s funded ratio from 56.4 percent to 65.2 percent.”

Unfortunately, official accounting is rigged to hide the true magnitude of pension debt. Based on extrapolation using the state’s own assumptions and data from the latest full-year U.S. Census Survey of State Administered Pensions, I calculate as of this year New Jersey actually is in a $168 billion pension hole.

Yes, New Jersey’s pension problems have their roots in 1997, when Gov. Christine Todd Whitman first began to play games with state pension money to fund (you guessed it) tax cuts. She floated a pension bond that haunts New Jersey to this day, and all NJ can afford to pay is its interest.

And official accounting never includes the cost to taxpayers of abuses such as double dipping.

Those abuses add up in New Jersey and virtually every other state. Defenders of government defined benefit pensions try to claim that while such abuses exist, they don’t contribute much to total pension costs. However, they cannot prove that.

What is proven is that in New Jersey at least, abuse is pervasive.

New Jersey Watchdog editor Mark Lagerkvist found rampant abuse while looking into just one small part of the pension system.

Lagerkvist exposed 60 double-dippers collecting nearly $10 million a year – $4.4 million in pensions in addition to $5.5 million in state salaries.

The administration of self-proclaimed reformer Gov. Chris Christie hired one third of them.

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno made false statements in 2008 when Monmouth County Sheriff to get her chief officer, Michael W. Donovan Jr., nearly $85,000 a year in retirement pay in addition to his $87,500 annual salary.

Under state statute, “Any person who shall knowingly make any false statement or shall falsify or permit to be falsified any record or records of this retirement system … shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”

In May 2011, a state pension board requested a criminal investigation of the Donovan matter. The case was referred to the Attorney General’s Division of Criminal Justice. However, the DCJ investigation is riddled with conflicts of interest.

Last week Christie announced Guadagno will be his running mate again in 2013.

Louis Goetting, who collects $229,000 a year from the state – a $140,000 salary as Christie’s deputy chief of staff plus $89,000 in state pension from early retirement actually is a triple dipper. Ironically, Christie hired Goetting in 2010 as a budget guru to help trim the cost of government.

He also received two golden public parachutes – severance packages of $190,000 from Brookdale Community College in 2009 and $180,000 from University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in 2002. Goetting has gotten more than $1.1 million in pension and severance pay – and he still draws a six-figure salary from the state.

2 Responses to The reformer

  1. jawbone December 18, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    I recall that when I moved to NJ in the early 1980’s, the Repubs would campaign against high taxes and claim to be fiscally conservative. They would also produce “fiscal records” which turned out to be purely fictitious.

    Every Dem who won the governorship would have find, upon taking office, that the “surplusses” or slight deficits would be oh, so wrong and the actual situation would be one of large deficits. Large deficits. This would limit what the Dems could do to help schools, the poor, the highly taxed low and middle class property owners, etc. And they would have to propose new taxes and sources of revenue — which the Repubs would then campaign against. And, most often this would lead to them winning. And running up more deficits to allow the wealthy to add to their riches by getting lower taxes.

    Christie Todd Whitman was one of the lyingest of the Repubs. She not only lied about the facts, but she would lie, convincingly, that you could make money by borrowing and then involving Wall Street. A TERRIBLE governor.

    But, obviously, the legislatures were in connivance with this game of Lie To The Voters (LTTV), and localities were allowed to delay payments to their employee’s pension funds while the state legisators were raiding the over all pension fund.

    So, for decades now, NJ’s pension funds have been systematically BAINed, just as the national R’s, with connivance of the Dems, have been BAINing SocSec.

    Now the pols play LTTV with the reasons for the pension funds being vastly underfunded. The game of lies based on lies.

    And, today, it seems Obama is going to get his wish to fuck over SocSec in order to avoid the Fiscal BLUFF (pun obvious and intended). After all, Obama helped set up the situation for this Fiscal BLUFF, just so he could once again go after SocSec and Medicare.

    Obama wants to pay out less for people’s earned benefits from SocSec to make up for the deficits caused, about one third in all, by using the SocSec trust fund to allow the budget to give huge tax cuts to the richest tax payers (and to some of the rich who pay no taxes, both individuals and big corporations).

    We have no Democrats of the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party in power any more. Trust Pelosi much? Reid? They’ll all bow to the Power of the Presidency, the Corporatist Presidency. Which bows and scrapes to the Big Money.

    We do not count, except to be gulled near election times. NO MORE.

  2. lless December 18, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

    Jawbone: What do you intend to do?

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