New Jersey’s pension fund value has grown to $80 billion, and its investments are earning double what managers expected.
Those investment gains come as good news to a state struggling to make the annual contributions that actuaries say are needed to keep the pension fund in good health.
The impressive returns, however, highlight an argument from unions that New Jersey may have missed out on even bigger gains in recent years because state contributions into the pension fund have been reduced or cut altogether, including the payment Governor Christie slashed at the end of June. Christie said he cut that payment — from a planned $1.57 billion, to $697 million — to prevent tax hikes or funding cuts to schools, hospitals and other crucial services amid a $1 billion budget shortfall. Continue reading
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who is toying with the idea of running for president, has yet to show sufficient interest in managing the public’s money in ways that benefit the public. He talks plenty tough, but can he make hard decisions that help ordinary people, even when it might hurt him politically?
His record on this score has been dismal. Time and again, he has used dubious strategies to avoid raising taxes (sparing him from inevitable criticism by party conservatives), even when increasing taxes would be the right thing to do. Such tactics have not helped the state. New Jersey’s bond rating took another hit when Mr. Christie, facing a big budget shortfall, rejected the usual remedies — cutting costs, borrowing money or raising taxes — and instead cut state contributions to the public employees’ pension fund.
Mr. Christie’s style of governance made big headlines last year when it was revealed that to punish a political foe,<!–more–> some of his associates had created a massive traffic jam that lasted for days near the George Washington Bridge. Since then the spotlight has grown even bigger.
The latest news involves what appears to be a diversion of funds originally intended for a vital tunnel under the Hudson River to a bridge repair job that normally would have been paid for by state funds. In 2010, Mr. Christie canceled plans for the tunnel, a decision that itself was a huge mistake. The Times reportedlast week that the Securities and Exchange Commission and the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., were investigating Mr. Christie’s efforts to use part of the $1.8 billion that belonged to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and was earmarked for the tunnel, to rebuild a deteriorating bridge known as the Pulaski Skyway.
Mr. Christie and his lawyers somehow persuaded the authority to agree that the skyway was an access road to the Lincoln Tunnel, which is under the authority’s control, and thus eligible for authority funds. The result is that the authority is paying to fix an 80-year-old bridge, relieving the governor of the need to raise New Jersey’s gas tax, the second lowest in the country, to generate state funds that could have been applied to the bridge work.
There are other instances of milking the authority to preserve Mr. Christie’s reputation as an anti-taxer. This month, The Times reported that the authority greatly overpaid for a 131-acre tract in the city of Bayonne, N.J. The infusion of authority funds helped keep the city from going bankrupt and costing the state millions.
Meanwhile, The Guardian reported last Thursday that Mr. Christie’s administration had favored Republican donors with over $1.25 billion in tax-break subsidies since 2012. It found that after Mr. Christie appointed a close ally to head a “bank for business,” 21 of the top 30 corporate subsidies went to ventures “involving firms that made significant donations to Republicans, or had senior executives who did.” Only one recipient in this top tier appeared to be strongly Democratic, The Guardian reported.
The Christie administration spokesman, Michael Drewniak, said that all of these tax subsidy deals were based on economic facts — promises of jobs, increases in tax payments, spending, and so on. “Political contributions are not considered,” he said. Mr. Christie has presented himself nationally as a straight-talking politician who can work with Democrats and attract voters from both parties. That image is taking a beating.
TARIQ ZEHAWI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Englewood firefighter Kevin Wilson at the scene of the fire at his home.
ENGLEWOOD – An on-duty city firefighter could do little more than watch as his home went up in flames Thursday.
Kevin Wilson was one of several firefighters who responded to a blaze that was reported shortly before 2 p.m. at 328 West Palisade Avenue Thursday – seemingly just a normal day on the job, except that now it was his own home he was being asked to protect.
“You never expect to roll out and see that you are actually going to your house to put out a fire,” Wilson said, speaking just feet from where firefighters still worked to tamp down the blaze Thursday.<!–more–>
Wilson initially was among those firefighters, remaining at his post until he was released from duty by Fire Chief Gerald Marion. On Thursday afternoon, he remained at the scene, speaking to firefighters and community members, many of whom expressed their sympathy for his plight.
“To his credit, he was standing by his duties at the pump,” said Marion, who noted that Wilson was the initial pump operator at the scene.
Marion said the fire was caused by an overloaded power strip on the second floor – a common hazard, he said.
“It’s usually a matter not of if, but when, it’s going to ignite,” said Marion.
Wilson lived on the first floor of the two-story home. Tenants lived on the second floor, he said. Wilson said the tenants were home at the time the fire broke out.
Marion said Wilson’s son had also been at home.
Wilson is the stepson of the late Jack Drakeford, a longtime councilman whose 50-year career in public service began as one of the city’s first black firefighters.
Firefighters from several towns, including Bergenfield, Teaneck, Tenafly and Hackensack, responded to the three-alarm blaze. One firefighter suffered minor burns to his head and hands, Marion said.
A cat also perished, he said.
The home, which sustained heavy damage, has been declared uninhabitable. The house next door at 330 West Palisade Ave. has also been deemed uninhabitable due to exterior and electrical damage, said Marion.
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Kenny Rogers to Join Forces with bergenPAC and Englewood Fire Department for Toy Drive Collection In Wake of Hurricane Sandy
Rogers to Match Donations Up to $10,000 to Purchase Toys, Fisher-Price to Donate 200 Toys to Help Make Christmas Special for
New Jersey Children in Need and Affected by Storm Toys, Monetary Donations to Be Collected at Rogers’ Christmas and Hits Show at Bergen PAC on Wednesday, December 19
Toy Drive Sponsored by Fisher-Price and Mattel
NASHVILLE, TN – December 12, 2012 – Kenny Rogers is teaming up with the Bergen Performing Arts Center and the Englewood Fire Department in Englewood, New Jersey, with the help of sponsors Fisher-Price and Mattel, to collect toys this holiday season for children in need in Bergen County, New Jersey, including areas severely hit by Hurricane Sandy. Always an important event in the community, the annual holiday toy drive will carry special significance this year taking into account the devastation Hurricane Sandy caused throughout the state of New Jersey.
Rogers, who brings his 23-city Christmas and Hits Tour with special guest Billy Dean to the bergenPAC on Wednesday, December 19, will match monetary donations up to $10,000 to purchase toys for the drive. In addition, Fisher-Price has generously donated 200 toys, and Mattel is offering a special discount on toys purchased with monetary donations raised during the drive, assuring that every donation received will go even further.
Donations to the toy drive can be made in three ways:
1) Monetary donations sent to the bergenPAC in advance. Checks should be made out to: Bergen Performing Arts Center and must include TOY DRIVE in the memo of the check. The mailing address is: Bergen Performing Arts Center – Attn. TOY DRIVE – 30 North Van Brunt Street – Englewood, NJ 07631.
2) Monetary donations collected the night of Rogers’ concert. Cash, checks and credit cards accepted. Checks should be made out to: Bergen Performing Arts Center and must include TOY DRIVE in the memo of the check.
3) New, unwrapped toys will be collected at bergenPAC on the night of Rogers’ concert.
Members of the Englewood Fire Department and bergenPAC representatives will be at Rogers’ performance to collect toys and monetary donations. Englewood firefighters will volunteer their time to deliver toys to area children in need prior to Christmas, in conjunction with bergenPAC, a not-for-profit 501 (c)(3) organization.
“As I sit here day after day watching on T.V. what has happened to the people of your state, I keep thinking and praying for everyone ‘up there’ and I realized… I’m going ‘up there,’” Kenny Rogers said. “It’s really tragic to see, as an outsider, all the destruction that has taken place – the lives, the houses and the businesses that have all been lost. What really breaks my heart, though, is to think of all the kids in the community without toys this Christmas. That should never happen. I realized there was something I could do about that when I come to perform in Englewood. My thought is to match all donations up to $10,000 that the audience is willing to contribute in the hope that we might raise at least $20,000 to buy toys for some of the kids in the community. We would also welcome anyone who comes out to our show to bring a new toy to donate to help make this Christmas a little brighter for many children. I appreciate all of your help. I would like to thank bergenPAC and the Englewood Fire Department for all they are doing to make this a success, as well as Fisher-Price and Mattel. Have a Merry Christmas.”
“Bergen Performing Arts Center exists first and foremost to benefit the community and we appreciate the opportunity to contribute in yet another way through this toy drive,” Bergen Performing Arts Center CEO Dominic Roncace said. “Our thanks go out to Kenny Rogers and the Englewood Fire Department for their thoughtfulness, generosity, and great efforts to help children and families hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy. We look forward to a stellar turnout at Kenny’s show on December 19th, which will surely be a night to remember, and also a generous response for the kids to brighten up their holidays during these trying times.”
“The Englewood Fire Department is very excited to be partnering with Mr. Kenny Rogers and the bergenPAC this holiday season for our annual toy drive,” Ray Rodriguez, Lieutenant – Englewood Fire Department said. “On behalf of the hundreds of families we will be helping this year, I would like to send a heartfelt thank you. The best part of our annual toy drive is seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces when we give them their bag full of toys. For that I am grateful to Mr. Kenny Rogers and the bergenPAC. I encourage everyone in the community to be a part of Kenny Rogers’ generous matching gift offer.”
Toys are being collected for the toy drive at all upcoming bergenPAC concert events during the month of December up through Rogers’ show on Wednesday, Dec. 19.
For more information on the toy drive collection, please contact (201) 816-8160 x16.
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About Kenny Rogers:
Kenny Rogers has sold over 120 million albums worldwide and is the R.I.A.A.’s eight best selling male artist of all time. During his 50-plus-year career, Rogers has recorded 24 No. 1 hits and 12 No. 1 albums while earning countless honors, including multiple Grammy Awards. Amazingly, Rogers has charted a record within each of the last seven decades. Rogers became a New York Times Best Selling Author with the release of his autobiography, Luck Or Something Like It, in October 2012.
About Bergen Performing Arts Center:
Founded in 2003, the 1,367-seat Bergen Performing Arts Center, or bergenPAC, is the area’s cultural mecca. Housed in a historic Art Deco-style theater boasting one of the finest acoustic halls in the United States, bergenPAC attracts a stellar roster of world-class entertainment. The jewel in the PAC’s crown is The Performing Arts School at bergenPAC – the innovative, educational performing arts initiative that reaches more than 30,000 students annually. The Performing Arts School provides community youth, age 2 months to 21 years, with unique, “hands-on” training in music, dance and theater by industry professionals. It is through the ongoing generosity of sponsors, donors and patrons that the not-for-profit 501 (c)(3) corporation bergenPAC and The Performing Arts School are able to thrive and enrich our community.
About Englewood Fire Department:
The mission of the Englewood Fire Department is public safety, the protection of life and property against all hazards. The department is committed to providing this protection in a dedicated, professional manner, exhibiting compassion for all those in need, accomplishing its task through the efficient delivery of fire suppression, emergency medical care, fire & environmental investigation, public education, hazardous material mitigation, and code enforcement/fire prevention services to all of Englewood’s residents.
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FOR KENNY ROGERS:
Kirt Webster & April Taylor
Webster & Associates
615-777-6995 ext. 230 (Kirt), ext. 227 (April)
To All PFANJ Members:
It is time to Rally again in Trenton. The legislature is pushing on with
legislation that will directly affect you and your family’s future. Our
March Rally of Fire Fighters and Police Officers apparently has lost its sting. It’s time to sting again but this time stronger.
ALL LABOR UNIONS in New Jersey are converging on Trenton, Thursday June 16th for:
LABOR UNITY DAY
9:00am at The State House (inside and out)
Our message is simple:
“SAVE COLLECTIVE BARGAINING”
We are asking all members who are off duty and our members families to join all the labor unions from across the state of New Jersey, for a Demonstration Rally that will be held THURSDAY- JUNE 16th at the State House in Trenton.
Governor Christie and Senate President Sweeney have crafted legislation that will affect our pension system, eliminate COLA, and circumvents our contracts by mandating Health Insurance premium sharing. It will also mean that you take that premium sharing into retirement. It also appears that Assembly speaker Oliver is wavering under pressure.
The legislation would guarantee that your yearly pension would be worth less year after year.
It’s time to remind those legislator’s that “joined” our rally that they
stood with us and they need to continue to stand with us.
THE LINE IS DRAWN IN THE SAND!
If they legislate what should be negotiated, then they are against LABOR, and labor will be against them.
Get the word out that everyone needs to be in Trenton on Thursday June 16th!
Together as one we will prevail.
See you all Thursday.