Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The pension system

Tom Moran of the Star-Ledger has a commentary this morning on the pension system for public employees. He cites abuses and legal tricks, such as:
Edison Police Chief Edward Costello is one lucky guy. On his final day in office, he negotiated a whopping pay hike that boosted his pension to $115,000 a year. That's on top of the $62,000 he got for unused vacation and sick time.
In Newark a few months ago, the deputy police director retired to take a pension, then was rehired to do the same job as a consultant, for a combined income of $221,000. It was apparently legal, but so embarrassing that the plan was scratched.
South Orange allowed 11 police officers to boost their pensions by counting unused vacation time as salary. Bradley Beach gave several top officials big raises in their final year, and counted sick and vacation time as salary.

Now, do I blame guys like Chief Costello? Not really. He made his pension contibutions for decades, and served with honor. Apparently, he hadn't gotten a pay raise in three years, so his last-minute raise was to make ammends for that. He played the system and came out on top. (Is it the 'right' thing to do? No. Would you do the same in that position? Damn right.) The blame falls squarely on a system that allows these tricks. The benefits plans are excedingly, embarrasingly, ridiculously generous and must be changed.

Remember in the private sector, you couldn't get away with this. I know people in the private sector who went five years between raises; instead of being angry, they feel lucky to simply have their jobs, since their co-workers have been laid off. Most folks who work in the private sector have no chance at a pension; they get a 401K (if they're lucky) and a "good luck to ya."

Politicians always talk about cutting waste and fraud. Some of this is fraud, but even with what's legal there's a lot of waste. Our public employees deserve a fair shake and decent pay, but this goes way beyond that. I hope Governor Corzine will make good on those promises, and propose a plan soon to cut the fraud and waste here. Moran states, "unless these benefits are somehow reined in, at least for new employees, you can expect a taxpayer revolt at some point." I sure hope so.

1 comment:

Bob said...

Regularly happens at the top. But Ocean County Freeholders had to be cajoled, threatened & bribed to extend basic death benefits to the partner of a dying employee. It's "Hey, we're all family here" until you ask for decency & compassion.