The pension gravy train

As much as the Daily Journal, a Gannett publication, protects Magazzu from undue public scrutiny – Bob Ingle does what a reporter should, digging the dirt and exposing corruption. If you missed this article in yesterday’s DJ, it is an excellent primer on how political bosses use boards and misuse the pension program for the sole purpose of rewarding insiders. Here are a few excerpts:

The dirty little secret about the hundreds of state boards, commissions and authorities is that the so-called “public members” aren’t public members in the sense that anyone in the state can get in on it.

You and I can get appointed to a seat on the honorary Board of Turducken Stuffers, but the agencies that offer state money to attend meetings are a special breed, a way to plant former political trough-swillers in a job that keeps them in the pension system long enough to get a payout. It takes a minimum 10 years of getting a state check.

I love that – “Board of Turducken Stuffers”! Anyone that has served on a local board such as the zoning board, the planning board, the shade tree commission, etc. might miss the implications of what it means to be appointed to some other boards (for instance, the CCUA).

Most boards come with no compensation, other than the warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from serving your community. However, there are many boards that come with perks, that were created for the sole purpose of allowing people to scam the state pension system and retire on your dime.

I am not referring to people that worked their entire life, paid into the pension system, and are now collecting a pension that they paid into fair and square. Well, let Bob Ingle tell it…

New state employees have to earn at least $7,500 a year to stay in the pension system, and that is way too low. Part-timers should be excluded. Political hangers-on from times past can stay in for as little as $1,500 a year. When they raised the minimum to $7,500, the ones already at the public trough were grandfathered in.

Many of them are greedy. A source told me he got a call from a member of one of these boards who was panicking because it was close to the end of the year and he wasn’t close to having his $1,500. The guy wanted two more meetings before the end of the year.

Since the pension system payout is based on the top three years of pay, the $1,500 is all it takes to stay qualified for whatever time is needed, then draw a lifetime pension and health benefits based on three years of, say $100,000 a year. That’s outrageous.

And guess who pays, folks? You do. New Jersey’s pension system is presently a mess. In Millville, we saw a property tax increase this year. So did Vineland. The county didn’t see a tax increase because Lou Magazzu was running for reelection, and so now we are facing a $4-8 Million budget shortfall.

What do you think the biggest expenses are in the budgets? Insurance, and pension obligations. I doubt that you will find a single line item that outweighs these two. And still politicians play games, appointing cronies into positions so that they can pad their state pensions working part-time jobs, biding their time until they are rewarded for years of loyal partisan political service with a taxpayer subsidized income for the rest of their lives.

But there is hope. Chris Christie is saying that he is taking a serious look at this frivolity and waste. He is seriously looking at what needs to be done to eliminate silliness such as “a board that uses paperwork to figure out how to reduce paperwork.”

“Let’s call it exactly what it is. These nominations of some of these folks at the end were pure pension plays. That’s all they were. You know it. I know it. It’s the stuff we all whisper about around here. We’ve got to stop whispering. We’ve got to start speaking out loud. These were pension plays, gifts to people who lost the election to keep them in the pension system that you and I and our children are going to pay for.”

Chris, I hope you are paying special attention to Cumberland County.

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One Response to The pension gravy train

  1. meagain says:

    If you are going to talk pension ABUSE how about Cumberland County’s own poster boy for pension abuse, Art Marchand? Collecting an almost $100,000.00 pension and then getting what is basically a lifetime job for $120,000.00 plus per year. A quarter of a million for someone who could not get the approval of his colleagues to be a Superior Court Judge. All the doing of politics at it’s worst! Where is the righteous indignation here? It’s just plain wrong whether you are an R or a D especially for someone who could not even get the approval to be a real Judge! His own brother and retired Superior Court Judge Stanger opposed this ill advised (putting it nicely) nomination! Yet through “politics gone wild” we all get stuck paying him almost a quarter of a million a year plus for the rest of his life. Now that’s really obscene!!

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