There has been a stunning amount of news on state cutbacks over the past few days. Here are the top headlines.
Up To 19,000 Job cuts Projected For New York City
It's a game of high-stakes chicken -- with thousands of New York City jobs on the line.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a doomsday scenario Tuesday, saying if Albany goes through with cuts to city aid he will be forced to make massive layoffs -- possibly the worst in decades.
It's a grim equation for a grim time. Bloomberg said that Albany's threatened cut of $1.3 billion in state aid equals the elimination of 19,000 jobs.
- 3,150 fewer cops
- 1,000 fewer firefighters, which means the closure of 42 engine companies
- 8,500 fewer teachers in the classrooms
- The elimination of 900 sanitation workers assigned to various street cleaning duties
- 500 fewer parks workers
- 500 fewer people in the transportation department
- 400 fewer librarians
Here's the deal. Not a single fireman, police officer, park district worker, or teacher has to lose a job. If any jobs are lost, blame the unions.
Christie Asks For Voluntary Wage Freezes
Gov. Christie said yesterday that he has a way for school districts to avoid layoffs even after their state and federal funding is slashed.
His solution: Get all public school employees to agree to salary freezes for the coming year, and to contribute to their health-insurance costs.
Christie laid out his plan before a friendly audience at the library of a Somerville elementary school. He said he would lay out details in a letter to the New Jersey School Boards Association and the New Jersey Education Association.
"We should put the children first, and that means we will have to sacrifice," said the governor, who has often criticized the raises educators routinely received. The increases usually were more than 4 percent.
Putting The Children First
What a novel idea: put the children first. In contrast, union parasites put the union first. More specifically, union parasites put the senior union members first, tossing the junior members to the rats.
Three cheers to governor Christie. I doubt the union goes along.
New Jersey Cuts Workers' Benefits
Late Monday evening, Republican Gov. Christopher Christie signed three bills that require all government employees to contribute, or contribute more, to the cost of their health-care insurance.
For new government hires, the measures limit payouts for unused sick leave, bar part-time workers from being eligible for pensions and eliminate pension benefit raises approved in 2001.
The legislation represents a sea change in New Jersey, where many politicians in the Democratically controlled statehouse who rely on union support typically have resisted any clampdown on benefits for government workers. Indeed, retirement benefits would often be enhanced by Democratic politicians during election years.
"We are motivating our members to respond to this in November and the elections next year," said Steven Demofonte, recording sectary of the New Jersey Fraternal Order of Police, in an interview. "We will show our anger at the voting booth."
The appropriate response to the unions is to fire them all an privatize the services.
Nashville School Board Privatizes Bus Drivers And Groundskeepers
Boos erupted from the 150 or more people attending the Metro school board meeting Tuesday night as board members narrowly approved a $633 million budget that cuts hours for some 600 bus drivers and contracts out all janitor jobs and groundskeeping work.
As the meeting went on, the crowd became more and more agitated. When the budget proposal passed, quiet mumblings rose to shouts.
Someone yelled, "How can you sleep at night?"
Then, most of the audience rose and filed out of the boardroom, chanting a call for the dismissal of Schools Director Jesse Register, who put together the proposal.
For the school board to stand up to that mob really says something - most likely, that voters are fed up with taxes.
The ultimate irony from that protest is a woman carrying a sign "privatization creates poverty". The reality is public unions create poverty and hardship for everyone not in the union.
I commend Schools Director Jesse Register, while saying "It's a start".
Missouri Lawmakers Ponder Salary Cuts
Missouri House members are considering whether to cut salaries for state agency leaders and staff members of certain elected officials.
Republican Ryan Silvey, of Kansas City, has proposed capping salaries at $86,500 for state department directors and $80,000 for deputy directors. Staff members for statewide elected officials could be paid a maximum $86,500.
Silvey says the salary cap is based on the pay for the lieutenant governor, who receives lowest pay of all statewide officeholders. He estimates it would save $1.1 million and affect salaries for 43 state workers.
Pray tell why should staff members make as much as the lieutenant governor? Then again, does the lieutenant governor do anything? Of course the same can be said about the staff.
How about a serious proposal that would slash staff expenses by say 60%? After that's done, let the legislators decide how they want to spend it.
Republican Ryan Silvey's proposal is jut plain wimpy.
Illinois Bill To Slash Pensions For New Workers
A bill that would sharply cut pensions for government employees is all of a sudden moving at lightning speed through the Illinois General Assembly.
But, even though it only would apply to newly hired workers, it reportedly would give huge budget relief to Chicago Public Schools, which has threatened mass teacher layoffs to fill a nearly $1-billion hole.
Under terms of legislation moved to the passage stage Wednesday morning by House Speaker Michael Madigan, newly hired workers generally would be able to retire at age 67, up from as early as 55 now.
In addition -- again, only for newly hired workers -- benefits would be capped on the average salary of eight of their last 10 years of work, compared to four of 10 years now. And the annual inflation adjustment would be the lesser of 3% or half of inflation, far under the 3% minimum figure in law now.
The legislation, which may go to the House floor for a final vote on Wednesday evening, also would apply the pension only to the first $106,000 of annual pay.
The proposed legislation -- known as SB 1946 -- would apply to every government pension fund in the state, excluding only police and firefighters in Chicago and Downstate, according to Mr. Madigan's spokesman.
A spokesman for AFSCME's Illinois council termed the measure "an assault on retirement security." Though now limited to new workers, "We see it as opening the door to slashing pensions for existing workers," the spokesman added.
Almost as unhappy was R. Eden Martin, president of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club, which has been strongly pressing for pension reform.
The bill is "a small step in the right direction," Mr. Martin said. But by limiting its extent to new workers, the bill does almost nothing to solve today's budget holes. It eventually will save tens of billions of dollars for taxpayers decades in the future, he added.
The Illinois proposal is indeed only a small step, a very small step.
Illinois should privatize everything everything unless unions bring more to the table. And pray tell why should police and firefighters be exempt? Police and firefighters are the biggest problems cities face.
You Can't Compromise With Termites
Check this out "Senate President John Cullerton had called for more limited pension reductions. But, his spokeswoman said that he will support the measure and put it to a vote later this week if, as expected, it's approved by the House.
Mr. Cullerton changed his stance because unions would not agree to sign on to his more-limited proposal, his spokeswoman said."
Unions in general do not compromise. They have bankrupted cities and states and they still want more. The only solution is to treat them like the termites and exterminate them.
California Gubernatorial Candidate Meg Whitman Says Defined Benefit Plan Era Is Over
Poll Shows Most Believe Public Unions Strain Budgets
Most likely voters in California (52%) believe public employee unions place a significant strain on the state's struggling budget, according to a new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey in the state.
Just 24% disagree and say the unions are not a budget strain. Another 24% are undecided. The majority of voters in the state (53%) oppose unions for public employees, while 43% are in favor of them. Those numbers include 19% who are strongly in favor and 28% who strongly oppose these unions.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman is focusing attacks on Democratic opponent Jerry Brown for supporting public employee unions that she contends are hurting the state's budget.
If you want higher taxes and fewer services then Jerry Brown is your man.
If not, vote for the winner of the Republican primary, most likely Meg Whitman.
Anti-Union Anger Mounts In California
Senate Bill 1425, co-authored by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, aims to curtail the problem of pension spiking amongst public employees and "double dippers," those who retire with substantial pensions and then pursue similar jobs often at the same public agency.
Some estimates consider the practices a $100 million loss to state taxpayers.
"I think the public is willing to pay for a decent retirement for someone with years of service," Simitian said. "I don't think the public wants to pay the equivalent of two full-time paychecks to someone working in the same job."
In 25 years of public service, Simitian has never heard the level of anger and frustration from the public on the issue as he has in the past year, he told the Daily Journal.
Simitian anticipates some pushback on his legislation but he is not the only one looking to curtail the high cost of public employee pensions.
A group has formed in Menlo Park aimed at putting a pension reform measure on the city's November ballot. Citizens for Fair and Responsible Pension Reform say the current rules Menlo Park operates under in paying its employee's retirement cost will eventually bankrupt the city.
Under current rules, an employee can receive 81 percent of his salary for life starting at age 55. The reform group's ballot measure intends to move the number down to 60 percent of an employee's salary at age 60. The measure, however, excludes police department employees.
"Some of Menlo Park's administrative secretaries or assistants earn from $75,000 to $90,000 a year.
Huge Reductions In Florida Pensions With No Grandfathering
There is a bill (HB... 1319/SB 1902) moving in Tallahassee that will significantly change the Florida Retirement System if passed. Some highlights of HB 1319/SB 1902 include:
Retirement compensation will be computed based on the average salary over ALL years of service. The average of the "highest five years" rule will be repealed. There is no grandparenting clause, so this will apply to existing employees participating in the FRS system who continue to work after July 1, 2010.
All new hires as of July 1, 2011, and all with DROP participation dates beginning on or after July 1, 2011, would pay a 1% contribution of gross income into the FRS system.
Reduction in annual multiplier from 1.6% to 1.44% for regular class; reduced from 2% to 1.8% for senior management class; and reduced from 3% to 2.7% for special risk class (cops, firefighters, etc). There is no grandparenting clause, so this would apply going forward to existing employees participating in the FRS system who continue to work in qualified positions beyond the effective dates.
Normal retirement service years and DROP ages increased to 33 years/age 65 (currently: 30 years/age 62), and by +3 years for all special risk categories. There is no grandparenting clause, so this will apply to existing employees participating in the FRS system who continue to work in qualified positions beyond the effective dates. This would not impact those who enter DROP before the July 1, 2010, effective date.
Average full compensation would no longer include accumulated annual leave paid out of the end. Accumulated sick leave paid out at the end will also not be counted towards calculating FRS compensation benefits.
Maximum benefit reduced to 80% of average final compensation. Existing 90% cap would remain for FRS participating employees who vested (at least 6 years of qualified FRS service) before July 1, 2010.
Also pending is HB 1543 (Rep Zapata) Highlights include:
Cut the maximum benefit to 70% of average final compensation.
Entirely eliminates the elected official, senior management, and special risk administrative support classes for FRS benefits. All in these categories would all remain in FRS, but would be transferred to the "regular class" category.
Finally! A Bill That Bypasses Grandfathering
Those proposals represent common sense. Although the defined benefit pension era will soon be over for public workers, that will not suffice. Union parasites are bankrupting Florida, California, Illinois, and for that matter every state in the nation.
States need to clawback unjust benefits from existing workers as well. The Florida bills do just that.
Great Day For New Jersey Taxpayers
A package of public-employee pension and benefit cuts expected to save hundreds of millions of dollars in the coming fiscal year and billions over a longer period was signed into law by Gov. Christie yesterday, 35 minutes after winning final legislative approval.
"Today is a great day for the taxpayers of the state of New Jersey," Christie said at an evening ceremony as he approved the bills, the first legislative action he has signed into law.
The signing ceremony came after the Assembly overwhelmingly approved the three-bill package that had cleared the Senate in late February.
The changes will cut retirement payments for future workers by 9 percent, make all public employees start contributing 1.5 percent of their salaries toward health-care premiums, cap payouts for unused sick time at $15,000, and make changes intended to thwart pension abuses. Except for the health-care contributions, most of the major changes will affect new hires only.
Two of the three bills will combine to save the state $8 billion over the next 15 years, Christie said.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) called the votes "a big victory for the state of New Jersey," saying the health-care law would save local governments $314 million in the coming fiscal year.
Those savings will translate into property-tax relief, said Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono (D., Middlesex).
The measures passed with almost no legislative opposition, moving swiftly from introduction to law in six weeks. But the day still had its share of backroom drama as Assembly leaders initially planned to delay a vote on the most sweeping piece of the three-bill package, citing questions about a relatively-minor provision.
The move surprised the bills' supporters, who had seen the reforms sail through the Senate without a single "no" vote.
Bipartisanship At Its Finest
Look at what leadership does! The senate majority leader (a democrat) is praising the property tax relief. The Senate president (a democrat) called it "a big victory for the state of New Jersey."
Partisanship At Its Worst
Meanwhile healthcare legislation in US Congress was rammed through without a single Republican vote. Less than 24 hours after Obama signed the bill, States launch lawsuits against healthcare plan.
Attorneys general in at least 12 states warned on Monday that lawsuits will be filed to stop the federal government's healthcare reform bill from encroaching on states' sovereignty.
Eleven of the attorneys general plan to band together in a collective lawsuit on behalf of Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington.
"Congress' attempt to force Michigan families to buy health insurance -- or else -- raises serious constitutional concerns," said Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox. "We will fight to defend the individual rights and freedoms of Michigan citizens against this radical overreach by the federal government."
The state attorneys general say the reforms infringe on state powers under the Constitution's Bill of Rights.
Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, who plans to file a lawsuit in federal court in Richmond, Virginia, said Congress lacks authority under its constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce to force people to buy insurance. The bill also conflicts with a state law that says Virginians cannot be required to buy insurance, he added.
Great Day For California Looms On Horizon
New Jersey had has a string of great days ever since voters elected Governor Chris Christie.
California, and indeed the nation can have a great day if we can bump off Nancy Pelosi. I just got off the phone with John Dennis. He is running against Nancy Pelosi in San Francisco. He has the endorsement of Ron Paul and he has mine as well.
He also has a good chance of winning. Whether or not you live in California District 8, John Dennis Deserves your support.
Dennis is a sound money candidate, a fiscal conservative, and will uphold the constitution. What more could you want?