You may have seen recent news reports regarding New Jersey’s public employee pension system. Specifically, Senate President Steve Sweeney is expected to make an announcement tomorrow regarding his plans for a pension system overhaul, while Gov. Christie is expected to roll out yet another set of pension proposals in his State of the State address on Tuesday. Some media outlets have been speculating about what the proposals will entail, and NJEA has been in discussions with legislators and others regarding what to expect from both Sweeney and Christie.
More importantly, we have been carefully studying the pension system ourselves for many months. We have met with actuaries in order to understand the magnitude of the issues the system faces. We have also asked them to study what steps are necessary to ensure the long-term health of the system and the future security of our members who are in the pension system. We have met with attorneys to make sure we know what our members’ legal rights are with regard to their pensions and any proposed changes to the system.
We have also met with legislators and discussed our concerns about the pension system. We have not come to any agreements with legislators or final conclusions about the best way to resolve the problems caused by both the economy and the state’s irresponsible funding practices. However, we will continue to pursue meetings with legislators in order to be part of the discussion and to advocate for solutions that protect both the stability of the pension system and your long-term security. We believe those solutions should come only from cooperation and mutual effort, and should not be simply imposed.
We understand that pension security is a top priority for our members. That is why it is – and will always remain – a top priority for NJEA. We will continue to do everything in our power to protect the pension fund and the security you are counting on for your retirement. We know that there are no easy solutions for fixing a system that has been so badly neglected by the state and so severely battered by the economy. We also believe that the “shared sacrifice” we hear about so often must really be shared: the state must step up and take responsibility for its pension obligations. The state’s failure to make any contribution for 13 of the last 17 years is the primary reason we face this crisis, and responsible funding must be the foundation of any real reform.
As we continue this effort, we need your help. Please contact your legislators and ask them to tell their leaders to meet with NJEA leaders to discuss the issue of pensions.
Our 200,000 members must have a place at the table, and your voice must be heard and respected as we all grapple with this significant challenge.
The next few weeks and months should be very busy ones on the pension front. We will keep you informed of developments as they occur, and we will fight tirelessly to protect your best interests as we work for real, sustainable and lasting solutions to the problems our pension system faces.