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Police and Law Enforcement Home  >  The Column  >  A Showdown Looms

The Column

Police and Law Enforcement News
Monday, February 3, 2014
 10:29 p.m.


In the background of the conversation over a certain bridge, the stage was being set for an old fashioned duel.

On one end of the street stands the embattled governor still careening downward - albeit slower - in his descent from grace. 

On the other, a senate president still stung and somewhat damaged from a cocktail of working with the enemy - republicans - and being perceived to have fled from aiding the public service union, a mainstay of democratic politics.

Unlike most duels, however, one or both of the shooters here will hit a most curious and impatient bystander: us.

Every member of the Police and Fire Pension System bitterly remembers Governor Chris Christie's now infamous "Sacred Trust" vow made to us prior to the first election.

An excerpt:

I have repeated time and time again that the pension agreement made with our members of our law enforcement community must be respected.  It is a sacred trust.  Nothing will change for the pensions of current officers, future officers or retirees in a Christie Administration.

These words were part of an open letter sent from then-Candidate Christie to the New Jersey law enforcement community.  Once he was elected, of course, it was a bloodbath.  But the bloodbath did come with assurances that our pension system's outstanding bill would be settled. 

Or so we thought.

On Tuesday, January 14, 2014, Republican Governor Chris Christie delivered his State of the State address.  The paragraphs below are of great concern to all PFRS members:

We have discussed many exciting opportunities for investment in our state. K-12 education. Higher education. Crime prevention. Drug rehabilitation and job training. Health care. Infrastructure investment. Lower taxes. Job growth. All exciting, all of which, done responsibly, could make New Jersey an even greater place. But here is the simple truth. We cannot afford to do it right now.


Because of our pension and debt service costs. For the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget, the increase in pension and debt service costs could amount to as much as nearly $1 billion.

Thatís nearly $1 billion we canít spend on education. That we canít invest in infrastructure improvement. That we canít use to put more cops on the street. That wonít be available to improve access to health care.

These are the consequences of failing to engage in an attitude of choice. If we continue in an era where we believe we can choose everything, we are really choosing nothing. We need to have the conversation now about further changes to our pension system and to adding further to the stateís debt load. But the time to avoid this conversation and these choices is nearly over.

If we do not choose to reduce our soaring pension and debt service costs, we will miss the opportunity to improve the lives of every New Jersey citizen, not just a select few.

It seems that Mr. Christie is reconsidering the plan to pay back money borrowed from and owed to the Police and Fire Pension System as well as other public employee pension systems.

Enter Senate President Stephen Sweeney.

Four years ago, Mr. Sweeney and his fellow democrats from both the senate and the general assembly went along with the republican governor's proposal on pension reform with the understanding that the pension payments would later resume. 

Mr. Sweeney's response - on the surface -  seems to suggest he is willing to go to battle for us.  He even threatened a complete government shutdown if the pension payments were not made.


While a shutdown is the last thing he wants, Sweeney said a promise that he and the governor made three years ago when they overhauled the pension system to increase contributions over a seven-year period must be kept.

"We made a promise and this promise has to be kept. We spread the payments out over seven years," he said. "There's no pension holidays now. We have to go forward and ensure the payment."

But last week Mr. Sweeney outlined a new plan which would impose a zero percent cap on property taxes.  For all intents and purposes, this would result in virtual freeze on new spending.  (The two percent raise once mocked, now coveted may turn into more zeroes)

At this point it's difficult to speculate how this will play out, but it will provide some exciting entertainment for spectators.

I just wish that we were spectators.

Use the scroll box below so share you thoughts or read those of others.












A Showdown Looms




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