NJ pension report bears bad news, but fails to bare abuses

BAD NEWS – Gov. Christie’s blue-ribbon pension panel finds $90 billion in red ink

By Mark Lagerkvist | New Jersey Watchdog

New Jersey taxpayers will find plenty of bad news in the first report of the special commission Gov. Chris Christie appointed to study the $90 billion deficit in the state’s retirement system.

“This problem is dire and will only become much worse if meaningful steps are not taken quickly,” concluded the New Jersey Pension and Health Benefit Study Commission paper released yesterday.

Yet the findings ignored many of the weaknesses and abuses that have heavily contributed to the dilemma threatening New Jersey’s fiscal health. It did not mention of the sham retirements, double-dipping, disability cheats, part-timers collecting full benefits or generous six-figure pensions that have drained state funds.

The governor’s hand-picked, blue ribbon panel overlooked those abuses – including most of the “seven deadly sins” detailed in a New Jersey Watchdog investigative report earlier this week.

The commission did criticize governors and legislators for decades of increasing benefits while decreasing contributions by billions of dollars.

“Both public employees and taxpayers have been poor served by a long-standing and bipartisan tradition of increasing benefit levels without adequate funding,” the report stated. “The failure of the state to make required contributions when they have been due has made a bad situation worse.”

Pegging the unfunded pension and health liability at $90 billion, the commission did not include the deficit attributable to local governmental workers covered by the state retirement system.

The combined shortfall is $104 billion, according to the Treasury’s latest numbers. The report did not propose any specific reforms. Recommendations are expected next month in the panel’s second and final white paper.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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