Category: Clips

Big Win For Christie In Jersey State Pension Battle

CBS New York -

New Jersey’s top court sided with Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday, giving him a major victory in a fight with public worker unions over pension funds and sparing a new state budget crisis.

The state Supreme Court overturned a lower-court judge’s order that told the Republican governor and the Democrat-controlled Legislature to work out a way to increase pension contributions for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

In a 5-2 ruling, the court said there wasn’t an enforceable contract to force the full payment, as unions had argued there was.

“That the State must get its financial house in order is plain,” Justice Jaynee LaVecchia wrote in the majority opinion. “The need is compelling in respect of the State’s ability to honor its compensation commitment to retired employees. But this Court cannot resolve that need in place of the political branches.

She noted that the state is obligated to pay individual retirees their pensions. That’s not in danger this year, but unions say the funds could start going insolvent within the next decade.

“The court’s position is clear, as is mine, it is time to move forward and work together to find a tangible, long-term solution to make our pension system and public employee health benefit costs affordable and sustainable for generations to come,” Christie said.

Christie’s budget proposal for the fiscal year 2016, which starts July 1, calls for a record $1.3 billion contribution. But even that amount is less than half the $3.1 billion called for in the 2011 deal.
The governor says he has a new plan to reduce health benefit costs and use the savings to stabilize pension funds — but over a longer time. Current workers would also have their defined benefit plans frozen and replaced with 401(k)-style plans.

Anthony M. Bucco

Assemblyman Anthony Bucco, R-Randolph, said the ruling shows a clear separation of powers.
“I think this Supreme Court got it perfectly right as a matter of law,” he told 1010 WINS’ Rebecca Granet.


Declan O’Scanlon, the Republican budget officer in the Assembly, told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell the pension system must be fixed. “It really does force the hand of union leaders to come to the table in good faith,” he said.

Declan O'Scanlon

While the court fight over pensions is likely over — unless unions find a way to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court — pensions are still a major political and fiscal issue in New Jersey.


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Somerset County teachers talk about pensions with Ciattarelli

Courier News -

Lisa Domanski, who teaches at Triangle School in Hillsborough, said she remained in the profession she loved because of the promise of a pension. But, now nearing her retirement, she worries if she will have a pension.

Those anxieties over pensions were the message that Domanski and about 300 Somerset County teachers delivered at rallies Monday afternoon at the district offices of state Sen. Kip Bateman (R-District 16) and Assemblymen Jack Ciattarelli (R-District 16).

Bateman and Ciattarelli sympathized with the teachers’ worries that their retirements will be jeopardized because the state has not fully funded the pension fund.

Bateman said he encourages the leadership of the New Jersey Education Association to sit down with legislative leaders and find a solution.

Jack Ciattarelli

“We need total reform,” said Ciattarelli, who talked with teachers, including Domanski, who remained in front of his Division Street office as the rest of the group marched on Main Street to Bateman’s office.

Unlike other county and municipal employees, the assemblyman explained, teachers’ pensions are funded through the state, not local property taxes.

Ciattarelli proposed that teachers’ pension payments gradually be transferred to local school districts as new teachers, at lower salaries, replace retiring teachers at higher salaries.

The assemblyman said that change would avoid the “volatile” swings in state budget revenue and avoid “kicking the pension payments down the road” as a way of closing budget gaps.

Ciattarelli also proposed that retired teachers with Social Security and pension income over  $50,000 a year or those with less than 20 years of service be required to pay their Medicare Part B premiums. Those premiums are now paid by the state.

“Life is not fair,” Ciattarelli told Domanski. “If life were fair, teachers would be paid $1 million.”

The rally came the day before the state Supreme Court is expected to rule at 10 a.m. Tuesday on a lawsuit to force the state to fully fund the pension. That ruling will have an impact on the state budget, which has to be adopted by the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.


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O’Scanlon: Court-ordered pension payment would crush taxpayers, economy

Source: - If the state Supreme Court rules Tuesday that New Jersey’s public workers have a contractual right to pension funding and orders Gov. Chris Christie to pay back the $1.6 billion he cut from the current budget, the fight may not end there.

State Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) said he would consider defying a court decision that would order such a huge payment with only three weeks left in the fiscal year, saying it would crush New Jersey’s taxpayers and economy.

Declan O'Scanlon

That kind of response could set up a power struggle between the courts and the other two branches of New Jersey government.

“If the court acts in a way that is completely unrealistic… I think our duty then is to act responsibly in the face of that irresponsible court action,” O’Scanlon said…

A lower court in February ruled that the 2011 pension law created a contract between employees and the state, and Christie was in breach. Christie appealed the decision, stressing that the court shouldn’t play a role in budget disputes and doesn’t have the power to force the Legislature or governor to make an appropriation.

O’Scanlon said he, and possibly others, may be willing to test that authority.

“I think as responsible legislators and what I know to be a responsible governor, I think we take action to meet the spirit of the court’s ruling, if not the letter of the ruling… And that may mean defying the court,” O’Scanlon said.

“It’s obviously something I’ve thought about. I would bet it’s something that others have thought about. And I think it’s a safe bet it’s something the governor has thought of as well,” he said. “This governor has proven over and over again he’s willing to take these issues head on.”

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Ciattarelli discusses pensions with teachers union

PolitickerNJ -

Jack Ciattarelli

On the eve of a court decision on a legal battle between Gov. Chris Christie and public sector labor, teacher members of the Somerset County Education Association (SCEA) stormed the downtown offices of LD16 Republican lawmakers demanding full payment of the public pension.

The state’s high court is set to release its long-awaited decision over the state’s move to cut some $1.6 billion from a slated pension and benefits payment in 2015, according to an announcement by state judiciary officials.

On Monday afternoon, New Jersey Education Association Vice President Marie Blistan and Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-16) stood face-to-face surrounded by red t-shirted teachers spilling over the sidewalk on Division Street in support of Blistan.

Steve Beatty, president of the SCEA, grabbed a bullhorn and went to the front of the crowd. “They said corporations are too big to fail,” he said. “Our pensions are equally too big to fail. Without strong organizations like ours there would be no middle class.”

“My plan is to move more and more teachers onto the local school budget so they are less dependent on a vulnerable revnue stream,” Ciattarelli told Blistan amid an upgrade of chants.

The assemblyman engaged in friendly jousts with the NJEA vice president and other NJEA members.

The senate president  is the only one who’s put a plan on the table that would generate money to make up the shortfall, Ciattarelli noted, pointing to the proposed millionaire’s tax.

“But that only gets you $700 million,” he said. “Where is the rest of the money coming from? At 10 a.m. the Supreme Court will decide. I have no inside information, but my gut is saying they’re not going to order the payment.

“What we need is a total reform,” he added.

Ciattarelli then did what every savvy Republican politician does when he’s got his back against the wall: he quoted John F. Kennedy. “Kennedy said life’s not fair,” the assemblyman said. “Teacher’s pensions are the can that is getting kicked down the road.”

“Five billion dollar giveaways to the corporations,” the NJEA said.

“I have issues with that,” Ciattarelli said. “But if Merck and Mercedes leave, that puts a strain on local budgets.”

Blistan did mention to PolitickerNJ, when asked, “At least he’s out here.”

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Dancer moves to curb ‘electronic Peeping Toms’

Source: NewsWorks -

Ron Dancer

Hoping to curb an increasingly common invasion of privacy, New Jersey Assemblyman Ron Dancer is taking aim at “electronic Peeping Toms” who secretly film beneath women’s clothing. Dancer, R-Ocean, said “upskirting” is occurring more often because of the prevalence of smartphones with built-in cameras.

“What we have today are these, what I would term, electronic Peeping Toms that are really predators,” he said Thursday. “And I think the law needs to be clear that this is a crime, and it’s an invasion of a woman’s privacy.”

But Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll expressed concerns about the standard of proof.

Michael Patrick Carroll

“What always comes to my mind when I hear one of these ‘upskirting’ bills is the famous Marilyn picture where her undergarments were blown up by the subway allegedly,” said Carroll, R-Morris. “Assume that happens on the streets today and someone happens to have a camera out or just takes advantage of it. Does that become a crime?”

The Assembly Judiciary Committee agreed with Dancer, advancing his bill that makes “upskirting” and posting the video or photos online punishable by up to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

Saying that it’s troubling that offenders put those recordings on the Internet, Dancer said he believes tough penalties would be a deterrent.

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Legislation to ban ‘upskirting’ advances in N.J. Assembly

Star Ledger -

Legislation that would explicitly outlaw taking revealing photos under a person’s clothing — or “upskirting” — began advancing in the Legislature on Thursday.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee voted 5-0 to approve the bill (A-3864/3938/2992) after a discussion that included references to Marilyn Monroe and the Broadway musical Brigadoon.

Although such cases can currently be prosecuted under invasion of privacy statutes, New Jersey lawmakers say it’s time that upskirting gets a specific ban.

Ron Dancer

“What we have today are these what I would term electronic peeping toms that are really predators. I think the law needs to be clear that this is a crime. It’s an invasion of a woman’s privacy,” said Assemblyman Ronald Dancer.

Although the bill had no opposition, Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R-Morris) raised concerns about whether prosecutors would be overly broad in their reading of the statute.

Michael Patrick Carroll

“What always comes to my mind when I hear one these upskirting bills is the famous Marilyn (Monroe) photo where her undergarments were blown up by the subway, allegedly,” Carroll said. “And the thing that happens on the street today, if someone happens to have a camera out and takes advantage of it. Does that become a crime?”

“It was a contrived circumstance It was filmed for about seven straight hours leading to her husband Joe DiMaggio leaving in disgust and resulting in their divorce,” he said.

The bill would make it illegal for a person, “knowing that he or she is not licensed or privileged to do so, to photograph, film, videotape, record or otherwise reproduce in any manner an image of the undergarment-clad intimate parts of another person, without that person’s specific consent and in any circumstance in which a reasonable person would not expect to have their undergarments observed.”

Those convicted of the offense would face up to 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

“For what it’s worth, I went to see Brigadoon when I was about 25 years old and we had right, front seats. They were doing some very interesting dance maneuvers and it became rapidly clear what people in Brigadoon were wearing under their kilts on stage on Broadway,” Carroll said of the musical. “And, again, a picture of that, I suppose, because they were on stage on Broadway they would expect that kind of thing. But just assume this is something that happens when you’re walking down the street.”

The last time Brigadoon was on Broadway was 1980, which drew a response from lawmaker not eager to reveal his age.


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Rumana on a November ballot question for North Jersey casinos: ‘The timing is right’

PolitickerNJ -

Scott Rumana

Veteran Assembly Republican Whip Scott Rumana (R-40) will be the point person for the Republican caucus on the gaming question.

“I’m confident we’re going to have sound consensus from the caucus members to come forth with our negotiating,” Rumana told PolitickerNJ.

What does he think of the Meadowlands proposal by the Hard Rock?

“Being a North Jersey guy, I’m certainly interested in exploring that possibility but overall I want to spend the time dealing with everybody in the caucus because people from different regions have different interests. There are the horse folks. There are the people in Atlantic County. There can be a lot of ways to help a lot of different people. Next Thursday we will be all here for a voting session and that’s when there will be an opportunity to have some discussion.”

Rumana personally backs North Jersey gaming, and argued the revenue-enhancing effects of a North Jersey casino to help the state confront its Transportation Trust Fund and pension funding crisis.

“It’s an economic development opportunity that we should be exploring, that includes job creation and enhanced revenue possibilities,” said the veteran Republican lawmaker. “It’s all part of the global view. How do you improve the state’s position? The effects of having new casinos, hotels, restaurants and venues for shows and concerts create worlds of opportunity in the end. When you have that improved revenue stream, it can help.”

As for whether the ballot question concerning North Jersey gaming should go on the ballot this November, “The timing is good,” Rumana said. “But when we get through the caucus discussion, the devil’s in the details.”

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Brown Opposes Hard Rock’s Meadowlands casino plan

Chris A. Brown

Source: Press of Atlantic City - Hard Rock International unveiled its plan Wednesday to open a Meadowlands casino as early as next summer, the latest public-relations push in a campaign to dismantle Atlantic City’s intrastate casino monopoly and build what some say could be one of the nation’s busiest gambling halls.

The billion-dollar, 650,000-square-foot property, with its glassy dome-shaped entertainment venue, “will compete with anything in the world,” Hard Rock Chairman Jim Allen said at a news conference at the Meadowlands…

…South Jersey officials, led by Assemblyman Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, fiercely oppose casino expansion in the state, saying it will undercut a nascent recovery in Atlantic City, where gambling revenue has halved since peaking at $5.2 billion in 2006. “All you’re going to do is cannibalize the market you have,” Brown said.

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Handlin blasts NJ Transit fare increase proposal

Source: News Transcript – A proposed fare increase and service cuts announced by NJ Transit would strain household budgets and have a negative impact on the environment, according to speakers at a public hearing concerning the proposed changes…

NJTransit is proposing a 9 percent fare increase and several service cuts that would eliminate two low-ridership and late-weeknight trains, as well as a number of underperforming bus routes…

Amy Handlin

State Assemblywoman Amy Handlin (R-Monmouth) said she believes her constituents are being taken for a ride.

“Anyone looking at the pattern of fare hikes over the years can see the increases have been disturbingly erratic as well as very large — never lower than 9 percent and as high as 22 percent,” she said.

Handlin said she believes NJ Transit has much more work to do before finalizing a fare increase or service cuts.

“At a minimum, I believe you need to demonstrate that you have a rigorous financial forecasting model in place and will use it to avoid a future of continually hitting people erratically, unexpectedly and deeply in the pocketbook,” the assemblywoman said…

A decision regarding the proposed 9 percent fare increase and service cuts would be made in July at the earliest. The increases would take effect Oct. 1.

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Webber: Rutgers should take a page out of Purdue’s book and commit to lower tuition

Star Ledger op-ed by Jay Webber -

Jay Webber

As high school graduation season begins again, tens of thousands of young New Jerseyans will head off to college for the next phase of their education. For too many of those students, that step will lead to mountains of debt that they will carry with them for decades.

According to one recent study, a whopping 70 percent of New Jersey college students graduated with debt, the fourth-highest percentage of any state in the nation. Each graduate averaged more than $29,000 in debt. That average has increased by over 40 percent since 2004.

That economic pressure has negative effects on young New Jerseyans. It shoves college graduates who should be joining the adult world back into their childhood bedrooms. For graduates who are lucky enough to find a job, that debt load pressures them into short-term employment decisions driven by paying off debt rather than long-term career development.

Debt also discourages entrepreneurship and risk-taking by some of our brightest, most energetic residents, often best situated to take the smart risks so productive for themselves and the rest of society. How many young Bill Gateses seek employment beneath their abilities and at odds with their dreams, rather than unlock their potential – and establish whole new industries – by working for themselves out of their living room while they are young and hungry?

Student debt is of course driven in large part by high tuition rates, and New Jersey charges its in-state students the fourth-highest tuition and fees in the country. New Jersey in-state tuition grew by almost 24 percent from 2004 to 2013, far outpacing inflation.

Fortunately, our state’s flagship university, Rutgers, now has a good example from a peer institution of how to cut costs for its students. Big Ten sister school Purdue University has made intelligent savings a priority since the arrival of its current president, Mitch Daniels, Indiana’s former governor.

At the time of his hiring, Daniels stated, “At Purdue, we will make our first goal affordability, accommodating our spending to students’ budgets not the other way around.” What a refreshing orientation.

Eighteen months after the arrival of Daniels at Purdue, the university froze tuition for the first time in thirty-six years and has maintained the freeze for the last four school years. Besides freezing tuition, Purdue has cut a range of costs, such as combining some administrative jobs, reducing food service expenses, and partnering with Amazon on the price of textbooks. The upshot is that seniors at Purdue this year are paying less than when they started school three years ago.

Daniels challenges his faculty, administrators, students, and alumni to think about this: what are we doing that once made sense, but no longer does; what are we doing in multiple places that could be done less expensively in one; and what are we doing that does not further our core missions for learning? Then he sets incentives for faculty and staff alike to run more efficiently. For example, the fiscal year 2016 Purdue budget provides for increases in faculty merit bonuses and bounties for colleges in the University for hitting certain efficiency targets.

What do Purdue students get for their tuition dollars? A top-notch school. Purdue boasts the country’s best agricultural and biological engineering program, the sixth-best aeronautical and civil engineering programs and the eighth-best industrial and mechanical engineering programs, according to U.S. News and World Report. Princeton Review named Purdue one of the best value colleges in the nation, with a highly diverse student body and an active and loyal alumni base. And it bears reiterating – Purdue has achieved these distinctions, and gathered such momentum, without raising tuition on students and their parents for the last four years.

Now proudly part of the Big Ten, Rutgers has a model for innovation, efficiency and success in its sister school from West Lafayette, Ind. Purdue proves that it can be done. I hope the administration in New Brunswick is watching closely. Rutgers would score a huge victory for its students and our state if it could hold the line on tuition and costs, even for one year. That would be as impressive as winning any conference championship in athletics.

Assemblyman Jay Webber represents the 26th Legislative District in the N.J. Assembly.

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