Association of Fire Fighters State Association
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If the justices uphold an appellate court ruling that found retired public workers were guaranteed the bumps in retirement benefits, the state could be forced to reimburse retirees for their losses since 2011 and reinstate the COLAs.
The suspension was part of a broader law requiring public employees and the state to pay more into the troubled pension system.
The conference kicks off with the Opening Plenary Session and an inspirational message on living with resilience through adverse circumstances, followed by two days of presentations on topic-specific issues concerning fire fighter occupational health and safety and EMS in the fire service, including:
Current Health and Safety Issues
Responding to Incidents of Violence
Fire Behavior and Safety Research
Fire and EMS Operations
Line-of-Duty Death Investigations
This biennial health, safety and EMS conference combines the expertise and knowledge from fire fighting and EMS operations into one innovative and comprehensive program devoted to protecting the health and safety of all IAFF members.
Fire fighters, paramedics, medical directors, physicians, occupational safety professionals, fire officers, local decision makers and fitness trainers are invited to attend the conference, which includes two days of plenary sessions and two days of topic-specific workshops, briefings and information sessions.
The filing Friday is the latest volley in a more than yearlong dispute over pension contributions. They stem from Gov. Chris Christie's decision last year amid a budget shortfall to veer from a pension funding plan he signed into law in 2011.
Four months after state pension trustees’ vote, the retirement system’s chairman told International Business Times that Christie’s aides have so far prevented the probe from getting off the ground.
“They are throwing up obstacles, as many as they can find,” said Tom Bruno, who leads the N.J. Public Employees' Retirement System's board of trustees. Bruno says Christie’s Treasury Department has prevented the probe from going forward until Christie’s appointees on the State Investment Council give their blessing.
The investigation was supposed to evaluate the higher fees that have accompanied the administration’s shift of billions of dollars of pension money into hedge funds, private equity and other so-called “alternative” investments. Despite federal and New Jersey “pay to play” rules, some of those fees have been paid to firms whose executives donated to GOP groups affiliated with Christie. But with New Jersey having no independently elected auditor, treasurer or attorney general, pensioners must ultimately rely on the Christie administration to approve an investigation of its own decisions affecting thousands of retirees.
Democrats Push Chris Christie on Costs of Political Trips
New Jersey Democrats are seeking to bar Gov. Chris Christie from using taxpayer funds to pay for security when the Republican presidential candidate travels out of state for political events, a proposal that is under debate in other states with governors running for the White House.
Mr. Christie’s campaign is picking up his personal travel costs as he increasingly leaves New Jersey to campaign in early primary states, a spokeswoman said. But taxpayer dollars are being used to cover his security on these trips, which is allowed under state statute.
The governor’s office had $185,000 in security-related costs for all out-of-state travel between January and March of this year, up from $76,000 during the same period the previous year, according to invoices obtained through a public-records request. The invoices don’t specify the purpose of the travel.
As of March, the administration has incurred $1.3 million in out-of-state security costs since Mr. Christie took office in 2010, with 40% of those costs accrued since last July, the figures show.
A state legislative committee is scheduled to consider a bill that prohibits the use of taxpayer funds for expenses incurred by a governor when traveling out of state for political activities. These costs typically include overtime for state troopers, along with travel, food and lodging expenses.
Christie's Sleight of Hand on Pension Payments | Opinion
According to the Office of Legislative Services, beginning in July 2013 the Christie administration diverted the increased public employee pension contributions, mandated by his 2011 pension reforms, to municipalities and counties to reduce their normal cost of employer shares into the state pension funds.
The net result was less money from employers was going into the state pension funds and public employees were funding tax relief for everyone else in the state.
The Most Dangerous Jobs of 2015
American employers are always striving for improved conditions and job safety. Still, there are inherent dangers in the workplace. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that there were 4,585 on-the-jobs fatalities in 2013.
Some careers simply require those working in them to put their lives on the line for the good of others. Potentially life-threatening danger is part of the job description for police officers and firefighters.
The U.S. Fire Administration reports that as of July 2015, 46 firefighters in the United States died in the line of duty this year. Former Pittsburgh-area firefighter David Barckhoff, who spoke with CareerCast.com for our 2015 Most Stressful Jobs report, says “[complacency] is when something is going to kill you.”
Last week, Prieto (D- Hudson) began meeting with labor leaders about a plan to increase state payments into the badly under-funded pension system.
Under the plan, New Jersey would reportedly get five years to phase in the full contribution suggested by actuaries to keep the state workers' pension plan from going belly up. It would not include a complete redesign of pension and health benefits being pitched by Christie, sources told NJ Advance Media last week.
Pension debt across all 50 states rose $54 billion from 2012 to 2013. Twenty-two states managed to shed debt, while 19 — including New Jersey — increased theirs and nine had no change, according to Pew, which compiled data from 238 retirement systems.
The Pew report pegged New Jersey's pension debt in 2013 as $51 billion in 2013. Overall, it said New Jersey's pension funding level ranked 35th in the U.S., falling five spots from a year earlier.
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, left, and Senate President Stephen Sweeney talk before a news conference
with the New Jersey State AFL-CIO unions in Trenton. (Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
State Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto is quietly floating a plan to increase state payments into the public employee retirement system and cut down New Jersey's fast-growing state pension debt.
The plan, which Prieto (D-Hudson) unveiled to labor leaders in a private meeting on July 16th in Secaucus, would give the state five years to phase in the full contribution recommended by actuaries to keep the public-sector retirement system solvent, according to several sources familiar with the proposal who requested anonymity because it has not been made public.
Prieto's plan for state pension payments marks a shift for the Assembly leader, who was among the Democratic lawmakers calling on Gov. Chris Christie to live up to the terms of a plan to phase in state payments over a seven-year period that began in 2012.
New Jersey is second worst in the nation in a survey of states' overall fiscal health released Tuesday.
The Garden State beat only Illinois in the study of how much debt it has and how much cash is on hand conducted by George Mason University's conservative think tank, The Mercatus Center.
With nine credit downgrades since 2010 and a $40 billion unfunded pension liability, New Jersey often lands near the bottom of these rankings. In The Mercatus Center's report, it's in the company of Illinois, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York.
U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell calls for more federal funding for firefighters in a press conference at the Paterson firehouse, July 13, 2015. (Myles Ma | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
PATERSON - NJ.COM - July 13, 2015 -U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell and U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez called on Monday for Congress to restore funding to federal programs that pay for firefighting equipment and staffing.
The congressmen gathered local firefighters in the Paterson firehouse on McBride Avenue to ask for more money for the federal SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) and FIRE (Firefighter Investment Response Enhancement) grants.
The programs split $810 million in the fiscal year 2011 budget. This year, the Senate Appropriations Committee budgeted $680 million for the two programs.
The SAFER grants pay for local fire departments to hire firefighters. Paterson recently received a $7.5 million grant to hire 49 new firefighters.
The FIRE program includes Assistance to Firefighter grants, which help pay for equipment and training.
"We're asking our firefighters to risk their lives in our defense with insufficient staffing, inadequate training and a lot of obsolete equipment," Pascrell (D-8th Dist.) said. "We have an obligation to provide them the resources if we really care about their lives."
The Paterson Fire Department has received $27.8 million in federal funds since 2001, including a $4.5 million grant to construct the firehouse on McBride Avenue, which opened this year.
Report of State Health Plan Design Committe (PDC)
To All Members:
Report from Dudley Burdge, AFL-CIO member of the PDC
On July 6th the State Health Plan Design Committee (PDC) adopted resolutions establishing a new primary care initiative, a new limited network option, changes concerning Hepatitis C medications, compound drugs, chiropractic and acupuncture out of network payments, ER copays, and a Rutgers University wellness pilot.
This was the first time that the state has engaged in serious negotiation with public worker unions concerning the design, implementation and monitoring of State Health Benefit Plan programs. The PDC adopted a detailed resolution establishing a new primary care initiative -- this proposal was a union initiative that was not proposed or originally supported by either management or Horizon.
Though the PDC was established in 2011 by Chapter 78, up to now management has treated the PDC as a sort of impediment to the functioning of the State Health Benefit Plan. However, a decisive union victory in December 2014 concerned retiree prescription drug copayments established and reaffirmed the authority of the PDC.
The goals of the unions was to control costs and premiums without shifting costs to members which it is believed these new measures will achieved. A copy of the new programs and changes to existing programs may be found HERE.
An Update From CSC - Civil Service Commission On The Entrance Testing Process
The Fire Fighter entrance testing process has begun.
Prospective candidates should file only one application. The Civil Service Commission will automatically place candidates who pass the examination on the eligible list(s) based on residency and volunteer preference, if applicable.
The CSC fact sheet explains the process and is available HERE.
5 Things to Know About Chris Christie's Record of Dismantling Working Families' Economic Well-Being
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently announced he has enteried the 2016 presidential race. As governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie deliberately and repeatedly broke his promise to firefighters, nurses and teachers that he’d strengthen their hard-earned retirement funds, and instead, rewarded Wall Street and big corporations while his state’s public servants suffered. What kind of president will he be? You decide.
Here are five things to know about Chris Christie’s record when it comes to economic security and retirement:
2. Workers came to the table, increased their contributions and sacrificed earned benefits; Christie didn't hold up his end of the bargain. As part of the 2011 pension law, firefighters, teachers, and other public employees in New Jersey agreed to make sacrifices, such as contributing more each month to their pensions and suspending cost of living adjustments. By 2018, New Jersey workers will be contributing 7.5% of their salary to their pension, faithfully making their contribution every paycheck. When times were tough, workers stepped up and made sacrifices. Chris Christie, however, has continued to break his promise and go back on his word. New Jersey's workers have learned: Chris Christie doesn't negotiate in good faith.
NJ State Legislature Votes in Favor of A4265
With a recent Legislative Vote, the State Assembly and Senate went AGAINST the objections of the PFANJ and passed the Residency Bill (A4265), which would require all new fire fighters and police officers to reside in the town they are hired in for at least 5 years.
With the passage of this bill, it has been sent to the Governor's desk for his signature.
TRENTON - Today the New Jersey Fraternal Order of Police and the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey IAFF, AFL-CIO-CLC held a press conference at 11 am at the NJFOP Trenton Headquarters to urge Governor Chris Christie to veto legislation permitting municipalities, county governments, and regional divisions to establish residency requirements for police and firefighters.
PFANJ Dominick Marino (left), NJFOP Bob Fox (center), and Nat'l FOP Ed Brannigan (right)
NJFOP President Robert W. Fox pointed out, "Even though this bill is permissive, it gives towns and counties the right to control their police officers or firefighters' residency for their first five years of employment."
Fox continued, "We strongly believe recruitment in towns that adopt a residency requirement will be negatively impacted because the pool of candidates in those towns will be severely limited."
PFANJ President Dominick Marino noted, "Currently when police officers or firefighters are hired, they are required to reside in the jurisdiction for one year. Once they have completed their one year probation, they are allowed to move to any location within the borders of New Jersey."
"I have been speaking to several prospective firefighter candidates," said Marino. "They are extremely despondent about provisions in this bill. Residency requirements have nothing to do with quality of an applicant. The purpose of testing is to get the best qualified candidate."
Marino went on to say, "Forcing someone where they must live doesn't necessarily promote community involvement which the bill purports to do."
Also, attending the press conference was former NJFOP President and current National Fraternal Order of Police Vice President Ed Brannigan.
Brannigan was adamant in his comments, "This is bad legislation and legislators know it's bad legislation. We even question its constitutionality if signed into law and implemented by towns or counties."
"Over the past decades, police officers have been attacked on many fronts: their pensions, benefits, and salaries," continued Brannigan. "Sometimes we don't even know who the good guys are anymore. Provisions in this bill add insult to injury. Legislation such as this could endanger the safety of police officers and their families if they are mandated to live in communities where they work."
Fox concluded, "As I was driving down the highway, I noticed a sign that said, 'Drink and Drive and lose your freedom.' This bill says, 'Become a police officer and lose your freedom.' The decision where someone lives is a personal decision and should never be mandated by government. We urge the Governor to veto this bill."
NJ AFL-CIO: How Gov. Christie Has Failed Working Families
He Broke His Word – and Broke the Law. Christie coaxed Democratic lawmakers to the table on a promise of restoring the state pension systemto fiscal health. He extracted painful concessions from active workers and retirees in exchange for a legal commitment to phase in the state’s full pension payment. Workers and retirees did their part – and Christie eventually went to court to have his own pension reform law declared invalid. His continued refusal to uphold the law he championed and signed has left the pension system in worse shape than when he became governor six years ago.
He Enriched His Friends. While shirking his legal responsibility to fund the pension system, Christie has turned over bigger and bigger portions of the pension investment portfolio to private fund managers. New Jersey paid a record $615 million in fund management fees last year, more than four times the amount paid to outside firms during Gov. Jon Corzine’s last year. The Wall Street managers didn’t beat the S&P 500, but NJ’s in-house pension managers did. Many of those fees went to firms run by big GOP donors.
He Mismanaged the Economy. New Jersey's economy has consistently lagged other states under Christie. The rate of economic growth in 2014 was 46th. Personal incomes of New Jersey residents also grew at a slower rate than neighboring states and the nation as a whole last year. Christie gave away more than $5 billion in corporate welfare, then rejected a bill to document the effectiveness of his signature economic growth strategy.
He Failed to Create Jobs. The state’s unemployment rate of 6.5 percent is the seventh highest of the 50 states, and a full point above the national jobless rate.
He Bullied Teachers and Undermined Public Education. He berated teachers for receiving a “full-time salary for a part-time job,” attacked the NJEA for fighting to preserve members’ pensions and advocated for public school dollars to be funneled to charter and religious schools.
He Wrecked the State’s Borrowing Credit. The governor’s failure to fiscally manage the state well has resulted in a record 9 credit downgrades among Wall Street rating agencies, the highest of any governor in New Jersey history. What that means for taxpayers is that the state pays more to borrow money – New Jersey is a worse credit risk now than when Christie became governor, despite the economic recovery happening around us.
NJ AFL-CIO Won’t Give Up Pension Funding Fight Despite Budget Vetoes
Governor Slashes Pension Payment to Protect Millionaires Again
Gov. Christie had the opportunity to put the people of New Jersey before his own political ambitions by signing a budget that protects working families, funds public pensions according to the law and raises taxes on the wealthiest.
Instead, he slashed pension funding, wrongly labeled benefits as ‘bloated’ and blamed ‘a broken system’ rather than his own refusal to fund it.
Despite the governor’s rhetoric, New Jersey pensioners are NOT getting something for nothing. The state’s average pension benefit is among the least generous in the country – PERS ranks 95th in generosity out of the country’s 100 largest pension systems, according to a joint analysis by Keystone Research and New Jersey Policy Perspective. A NJ Spotlight study shows government workers in New Jersey pay more for health insurance than anywhere else in the country.
Christie’s budget shields the wealthy and businesses from any shared sacrifice while again hurting working families.
Everyone is obeying the pension reform law – except the governor who signed it! Retirees forfeited their cost-of-living increases, active employees saw their pension contributions rise by 36 percent to 7.5 percent of their pay, local governments have never skipped a payment, and the Legislature again passed a budget that includes the required pension payment.
We thank Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto for sending the governor a responsible, balanced budget that fulfilled the pension obligation. We wonder how a would-be presidential candidate can keep breaking his own pension law by skipping legally required payments.
We won’t be fooled again by the governor’s broken promises! We will do whatever it takes for however long it takes fully fund pensions.
NJ State AFL-CIO to Gov. Christie: Fund Pensions
New Jersey State AFL-CIO leadership were joined by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and the leaders of the largest public-sector unions on Thursday, June 25, 2015, to urge Gov. Christie to obey his own law by fully funding pensions.
Everyone is abiding by the pension reform law – except the governor who signed it. Retirees forfeited their cost-of-living increases, active employees are paying more, local governments have never skipped a payment and the Legislature has again drafted a budget that includes the entire amount of required pension funding. And now, while the governor continues to break his own pension law by skipping contractually required pension payments, he is calling for additional concessions for public workers.
Despite the governor’s rhetoric, New Jersey pensioners are NOT getting something for nothing. The state’s average pension benefit is among the least generous in the country (PERS ranks 95th in generosity out of the 100 largest pension systems), while government workers here pay more for health insurance than those in any other state.
The labor movement and the Democratic-led Legislature are united in their conviction that pensions must be funded according to the law. We commend Senate President Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Prieto for their continuing commitment to full pension funding. They not only drafted a budget that contains the full $3.1 billion pension payment, but also led the way on a supplemental appropriation that would pump $300 million in unanticipated additional revenue into the pension system for next year.
The results of the governor’s reckless disregard for the law and callous disrespect for pensioners are well-known: A record nine credit downgrades under his watch; a record $616 million in fees paid to Wall Street pension managers who performed no better than in-house money managers; his willingness to argue against his own law in the state’s highest court rather than honor the deal he signed and touted in a cross-country victory lap; and his total disregard for the long-term effects his selfish fiscal policies will have on the public and private sectors while he’s looking out only for his own future.
We will continue to fight for our pensioners and the future of the pension system – even if the governor who signed the law refuses to lead the way.
Important Information on Supreme Court Health Care Decision
As many of you are aware, recently the Supreme Court handed down another landmark decision addressing the president’s controversial health care law known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In the case of King v. Burwell, the court was charged with determining if individuals purchasing health care through the federal exchange were permitted to receive tax subsidies. Since the court’s ruling, we have received numerous questions regarding the impact of the ruling on our members and their health plans. Generally speaking, there is no immediate effect on IAFF members or their plans. To help our IAFF members to better understand the ruling, we have prepared the following supplemental materials:
Regardless how the Supreme Court ruled, we have a major concern over the portion of the ACA which imposes a 40 percent excise tax on high-cost health plans beginning in 2018. The IAFF has taken a leading role in a coalition of labor and corporate interests in trying to repeal the excise tax. Current legislation (H.R. 2050) to repeal the tax has been introduced by Representative Joe Courtney (D-CT), a bipartisan bill with more than115 co-sponsors. We will continue our fight to repeal this provision of the ACA and work to ensure that the benefits our members and their families enjoy will not be diminished. I hope the information proves helpful. As always, I appreciate your hard work and leadership.
NJ.COM - June 9, 2015 - The state Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that Gov. Chris Christie can slash billions of dollars in contributions from New Jersey's troubled public employee pension system.
The court's ruling caps an intense fight for pension funding and deals a major blow to the state's labor unions, who challenged Christie's spending cuts. Christie had sought to dismantle the pension law, which he argued was unconstitutional.
Judges split 5-2 reversing the lower court's ruling that ordered Christie had broken his own landmark pension law and had to work with the Legislature to comply with it.
"That the state must get its financial house in order is plain. The need is compelling in respect of the state's ability to honor its compensation commitment to retired employees," the court said. "But this court cannot resolve that need in place of the political branches. They will have to deal with one another to forge a solution to the tenuous financial status of New Jersey's pension funding in a way that comports with the strictures of our constitution."
"That the state must get its financial house in order is plain. The need is compelling in respect of the state's ability to honor its compensation commitment to retired employees," the court said. "But this court cannot resolve that need in place of the political branches. They will have to deal with one another to forge a solution to the tenuous financial status of New Jersey's pension funding in a way that comports with the strictures of our constitution."
Tuesday's much-anticipated ruling spares Christie from trying to scrape together $1.57 billion before the end of the current fiscal year in three weeks and billions more in future budgets.
Christie is in New Hampshire ahead of a widely expected run for president. In a statement, Christie called the decision "an important victory not only for our taxpayers who simply cannot afford these unsustainably high costs, but for limited, constitutional government that recognizes the proper role of the executive and legislative branches of government."
Hetty Rosenstein, state director of the Communications Workers of America, the largest state worker union, said the decision will not deter workers from trying to secure full funding.
"We will never move from that position, and we will fight wherever we have to," she said.
The lawsuit turned on whether the pension law created a contractual right to pension funding.
The court stopped short of calling the pension law unconstitutional, but said the law does not create a "legally binding, enforceable obligation" for the state to make payments into the system.
The 2011 pension law, which the governor called his "biggest governmental victory" and a "model for America" won Christie national attention and acclaim. He boasted the cuts to health and retirement benefits would save tens of billions of dollars over the coming decades by suspending cost-of-living adjustments and requiring workers to pay more for their benefits.
Christie partnered with Democratic leaders from both legislative houses to defeat New Jersey's powerful unions, who protested the far-reaching plan by the thousands, and the majority of Democratic lawmakers.
The law also gave workers a contractual right to pension funding, which the state had agreed to ramp up over seven years until reaching the full amount recommended by actuaries.
The administration's hope for a robust economic recovery didn't shake out, and the state didn't take in enough tax revenue to meet the payment schedule in the 2014, 2015 and so far, 2016 budgets.
The Supreme Court's decision strikes down a trial court ruling that Christie had breached workers' contractual rights when he slashed $1.57 billion from this year's budget.
Labor leaders said that money was deferred compensation owed to public workers who'd toiled away at unglamorous jobs for public sector wages.
Prior to the 2011 pension overhaul, most workers had a nonforfeitable right to their benefits, but not to the state's contributions. The bipartisan pension law was drafted to close that hole, forcing the state to keep up with payments and right a feeble retirement system.
Christie's administration had argued the pension law clashed with the appropriations and debt limitations clauses in the state constitution, saying that creating a contractual right to pension funding would bind the hands of future lawmakers and burden New Jerseyans with debt without their consent.
The court said Tuesday that the state cannot be bound to future payments without voter approval.
"Although plaintiffs correctly assert that a promise was made by the legislative and executive branches when enacting (the law), and morally their argument is unassailable, we conclude that (the law) could not create the type of legally enforceable contract that plaintiffs argue," according to the decision.
In the dissent, Justice Barry Albin and Chief Justice Stuart Rabner fault Christie for impairing workers' contractual rights in violation of the U.S. constitution. In addition, the ruling leaves public workers, who have been contributing more into the system under the law, "holding the bag," Albin wrote.
"The decision unfairly requires public workers to uphold their end of the law's bargain — increased weekly deductions from their paychecks to fund their future pensions — while allowing the state to slip from its binding commitment to make commensurate contributions."
From the PFANJ:
Although you have faithfully made you pension payments pay check after paycheck, month after month, year after year, the Supreme Court ruled against you today with a vote of 5 – 2 to not force Governor Christie and the State of New Jersey to make their required payment. We are disappointed with the disgraceful Supreme Court’s decision. We will continue to work with the other unions and those legislator’s that put forth legislation to require the Governor and State of New Jersey to fully fund the Pension.
Welcome to IAFF Dispatch
The IAFF is proud to release the premiere episode of IAFF Dispatch, a new bi-monthly video news magazine that will highlight the good work of the IAFF, our affiliates and members.
Feb 3, 2015 - It’s the loophole through which New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been flying on private jets.
Christie’s personal travel habits, detailed in a New York Times article include a preference for Cessna Citation X flights, Four Seasons stays and champagne toasts, are all legally consistent with his state’s code of conduct for governors – as long as everything is paid for by friends.
“The governor may accept gifts, favors, services, gratuities, meals, lodging or travel expenses from relatives or personal friends that are paid for with personal funds,” the code reads.
Lately, those friends include King Abdullah of Jordan, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Republican superdonor Sheldon Adelson – all with big pockets and big toys, like the private jet Adelson had him fly with his family on during a 2012 trip to Israel, at the same time Adelson was trying to defeat a measure to legalize online gambling in New Jersey (Christie later signed the bill anyway).
Christie also added a provision to the state’s financial disclosure laws in a 2010 executive order that expressly permits him to accept travel and related expenses from foreign governments.
Apparently he wants the public to believe that when it comes to pensions, the buck stops elsewhere.
That’s wrong and he knows it.
It was Christie who in 2011 signed a law dramatically overhauling New Jersey’s public pension system, increasing the out-of-pocket contributions from workers and mandating a seven-year schedule of state payments to get the system back in the black.
Since the 2011 signing, everyone has been doing their part to follow the law, except Christie. He has decided the state simply cannot afford to live up to the terms of the law he signed and has cut $1.6 billion from the state’s obligation of $2.25 billion for the current fiscal year.
At the same time, Christie has found plenty of room in the budget for massive tax breaks for corporations and lining the pockets of the Republican Governors Association. The governor’s misplaced priorities are making the pension problem worse and doing nothing to improve New Jersey’s economy.
But Christie loves a scapegoat and wants the public to think firefighters, police officers and teachers are to blame for the pension problems, while he is the one shortchanging the bill. He wants the public to think these hard-working public employees don’t deserve a secure retirement.
The governor can point fingers all he wants, but it will likely be up to a court to sort through Christie’s smoke-and-mirrors approach to pensions. Three of the state’s largest pension funds are suing Christie and his administration for failing to make the legally required payments to the pensions.
According to Standard and Poor’s, the problem with the pension is not public employees and not the economy. It’s Christie not paying his bill. This from the ratings agency: “The long-term impact of continuation of a funding policy that allows the State to contribute less than the actuarially recommended contribution could impact, at some point, the Pension Plans’ ability to meet their obligations absent significant additional contributions by the State, increased investment returns, or actions or events resulting in reductions to liabilities of the Pension Plans.”
Firefighters and other public employees have been protesting the lack of required pension payments by the state for years. But we have always been told that the system was well managed and the strength of the markets would make up the difference. And, when dire predictions and alarms were issued by, among others, former State Treasurer Richard Leone in 1995, they too were dismissed.
Then in 1996 the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey, New Jersey Fraternal Order of Police and other public worker organizations filed a lawsuit on behalf of our workers concerning the default of pension payments required by the State and local municipalities. That lawsuit took many years to work its way through the court system, after many delays by the State of New Jersey. Finally the court ruled that although the proper pension payments were not being made, because no worker was yet denied a pension, there was no actual harm. The lawsuit was thus dismissed.
Currently, two of the three required contributors to the pension funds are fulfilling their obligations. Local governments have made their full required contributions, more than $1.4 billion according to the recent State bond filing. In fact, they’ve contributed twice as much as the state even though New Jersey owes more than twice as much as the local governments.
And of course, we fire fighters, police officers, and other state workers are contributing 100 percent of what we are required to. This is all that’s holding the pension system stable. That and the exponential increase of management fees also passed on to worker. The system boasts a net gain on the investments over the first 10 months of 2014 of 6.88 percent, right on target.
Clearly, if New Jersey had paid its full payments into its police and fire pension fund, instead of constantly skipping payments, the fund would be in substantially better shape. It should be obvious by now to everyone that Governor Christie is not interested in fixing the pension funding.
Any future schemes that include cutting benefits for firefighters and police officers are irresponsible. Firefighters and police officers are not eligible for Social Security Benefits; our pensions are all we have to retire on. Continually pointing fingers at firefighters and police officers and attempting to bully them will not solve the problems.
It is time for Christie to stop passing the buck and start paying his pension bill.
Dominick Marino is President of the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey.
IAFF Calls Out Looters Of Public Pensions
Across America, state budgets are being balanced on the backs of current and former public employees by breaking commitments to fund their defined-benefit retirement plans. Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) is the latest to go this route, recently warning his state’s fire fighters, police officers, teachers and other public employees that he’ll propose skipping a couple (more) yearly installments against the state’s pension liability due to an unexpected revenue shortfall.
The Truth About Arbitration
Many politicians, local and state, want everyone to believe that binding arbitration is the reason local property taxes are high, when this simply is not true. Not daunted by the truth, the Governor and his allies are pushing for changes to binding arbitration that will reduce public safety, that will end innovative and cooperative approaches and will not save money nor preserve public safety and it certainly will not reduce your property taxes.
The truth is that arbitration is rarely used in the firefighter world as approximately 10% of the firefighter contracts over the last five years have been arbitrated and not negotiated. The truth is that binding arbitration exists because firefighters are not permitted by law to strike. When management and the bargaining group cannot agree on a contract, they must resort to binding arbitration, which is expensive for both management and labor. If these changes were instituted, more contracts would end in arbitration. This would increase the cost to local taxpayers not decrease it.
The push for these changes is a way to change the subject when the unpleasant truth is that the Governor is balancing the State’s budget on the backs of local property taxpayers by reducing aid to municipalities and school districts by more than $1.2 billion dollars in the current budget year. These cuts, and not arbitration, will raise your taxes and reduce your safety and quality of life.
Monday, March 31, 2014
To All PFANJ Members,
The existing arbitration law expired. The Governor vetoed the compromised bill minutes after it was put on his desk. The Senate agreed with his CV and voted to approve the changes in the bill. The Assembly as of this point has not agreed and does not plan on taking up the Governors CV.
Here is what is at stake:
The new law would have changed the process of choosing an arbitrator from a random to each party submitting three names of arbitrators from the special panel and if none of the names submitted were the same, the random process would then be used. If more than one name were the same the commission would then randomly choose from those names. THE GOVERNOR REMOVED THIS LANGUAGE AND REVERTED BACK TO THE RANDOM PROCESS
The new law would have changed the “base” salary meaning to not include non-salary economic issues, pension and health and medical insurance costs. THE GOVERNOR REMOVED THIS LANGUAGE AND REVERTED BACK TO THE OLD MEANING.
The new law would have included in the base salary the savings’ realized by a public employer as of result of: (1) increased employee contributions toward health and medical insurance premiums occurring in the fourth year, except if the increase in the employee contributions toward health and medical insurance premiums are not in the fourth year at the time of the new collective bargaining agreement, base salary shall include the savings realized in the most recent year of implementation of increased employee contributions toward health and medical insurance premiums; and (2) a reduction in force which occurred prior to the expiration of the collective negotiations agreement. In the case of savings realized by a public employer under paragraphs (1) or (2) of this subsection, an arbitrator may render an award which increases base salary items by more than 2.0 percent, but not more than 3.0 percent. THE GOVERNOR REMOVED THIS LANGUAGE AND REVERTED BACK TO THE OLD MEANING!
THE GOVERNOR INSERTED LANGUAGE TO ESTABLISH “ANOTHER” TASK FORCE TO DO ANOTHER STUDY!
The new law would have exempted those contracts that otherwise meet the criteria set forth in the old law from the provisions of the new law when negotiating a future contract. THE GOVERNOR REMOVED THIS LANGUAGE AND REVERTED BACK TO THE OLD LAW WHICH WOULD KEEP IN FORCE THE 2% CAP.
Update on COLA Court Case - 1/28/2014
Today James Mets ESQ. appeared as counsel for PFANJ in challenging the cessation of COLA before the Appellate Division in Berg v. State. Because of the large number of attorneys involved in this matter, the primary responsibility for presenting the argument rested on Kenneth Nowak of Zazzali Fagella and Ira Mintz of Weisman and Mintz. The parties agreed that presenting redundant arguments would only serve to annoy the Appellate Division Judges. In this regard, we intended to present only supplemental argument to what Mr. Mintz and Mr. Nowak presented if necessary.
The Judges made it very clear at the argument today that after Mr. Mintz and Mr. Nowak argued on behalf of all the union plaintiffs, no additional argument was necessary or needed. Based on the demeanor of the judges and the fact that any argument we could have made would have been cumulative rather than supplemental, our attorney elected to rely on what was presented as well as what was contained in the briefs presented on behalf of all union plaintiffs. (Indeed, the Judges did get annoyed when an attorney for the interveners insisted on presenting argument that was cumulative and cut off the argument rather quickly.)
The Judges were very interested in our arguments regarding whether the elimination of the COLA by Chapter 78 violates the Contracts Clause of the Federal and State Constitutions. This issue was never addressed at the trial court level, because the trial court Judge decided the case on other constitutional grounds. It is the attorneys’ opinion that based on the Judges questioning and interest in this issue, it is likely for the Judges to issue a decision remanding this matter back to the trial court for consideration of the Contracts Clause issue.
In addition, the Court requested that the parties submit supplemental briefs regarding the issue of whether or not the COLA amendments of 1997 have any relationship to the Internal Revenue Code. Our attorney will submit a brief on behalf of the PFANJ and Teamsters Local 97 (President John Gerow). Our brief is due two weeks from today. The State’s opposition brief is due two weeks from the day our brief is due. While our attorney cannot predict, it is his hope that the Appellate Division issues a quick decision after it receives the supplemental briefs.
Grant Applicants: Get Bid Specifications Ready Early
Review your grant application's requirements and get your bid specifications ready now. If you receive an award, this early preparation will help you to implement your grant as soon as possible and help ensure you are able to complete your project within the period of performance.
Start to draft a bid solicitation that encourages competition by not using proprietary vendor specifications. By avoiding the use of proprietary vendor specifications, you encourage competition, which may decrease your overall costs. For example, you can request bids for a new pumper and specify that it have an "independent front suspension." But specifying that the pumper have a particular name-brand independent front suspension would be a proprietary specification that would limit competition to those vendors that build trucks containing those particular items.
Avoid any real or apparent conflicts of interest in your procurements. Remember that no employee, officer, or agent of your organization, who has a real or even apparent conflict of interest (potential for personal gain), may participate in the selection of the contractor or vendor that will supply the grant-funded items or services. They cannot accept gifts, favors, or anything of monetary value from potential contractors.
Maintain written procurement procedures. Become familiar with and keep on file the written procurement procedures and standards for your organization. If you are unsure, check with your local or state government for procedures. All grantees must have procurement procedures that follow local or state procurement procedures AND meet Federal procurement law as outlined in 44 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 13.36.
Have a record system set up for the grant. Make sure that you have system established that will maintain your grant records accurately and securely while still being accessible. All Federal awards are subject to a possible audit or desk review.
The law is widely viewed as the most historic overhaul of the U.S. health care system since the inception of Medicare and Medicaid.
While the law’s primary goal is to increase the number of insured Americans, there are other provisions within the law that also have implications for IAFF members.
In order to help IAFF members better understand the law the IAFF has developed a What You Need to Know About the Affordable Care Act online resource of information, including an overview of the Affordable Care Act, answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs), an educational video about the ACA, strategies on negotiating health care and links to both government and industry sources such Healthcare.gov, the AFL-CIO and the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Links to the NJ Division of Pensions and Benefits Health Benefits Handbooks may be found here
In the NJ Direct Handbook those preventative services which are mandated by the National Health Reform to be covered without co-payment are listed on pages 76, 77, and 81.
NJ State Health Benefits Mobile Phone Applications Aetna, CIGNA, and Horizon have developed applications for the iPhone, smartphones, and other web-enabled mobile devices to provide State Health Benefits Program (SHBP) members with plan information "on the go."
Medco Health Solutions, Inc. has also developed the Medco Pharmacy mobile app for its Prescription Plan, now available at no cost on BlackBerry® and Android™ smartphones using the Verizon Wireless network.
CHAPTER 330 RETIREES
Firefighters represented by the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey strongly disagree with the governor’s agenda and his decisions because they threaten public safety.
The governor failed to take advantage of a federal grant program that would improve public safety and create jobs.
While the governor argues forcefully that he is doing what’s best for New Jersey residents, the reality is that he continues to do what’s best for himself, using his so-called reforms to promote himself on a national stage.
He also is spreading misinformation.
In his speech last week, the governor took credit for the improved funding level of the Police and Firemen Retirement System in New Jersey. But the reason the PFRS pension fund is doing better is because local municipalities are finally meeting their financial obligations and paying what they are required to pay into the system – just as the firefighters in this state have always done.
He also inferred that when the state pension funds reach 80 percent a state-established board of government officials and firefighters can vote to raise annual cost of living adjustments to pensions. While that’s technically possible – and would be a welcome change – it has not happened, and benefits won’t increase until harsh restrictions on the state board are loosened.
The governor shouldn't take credit for something he didn't’t do, but that hasn't’t stopped him in the past. Once again, the governor’s statements need careful fact-checking. Once again, his credibility has been damaged because he has climbed atop his bully pulpit to spread falsehoods.
He is not our state’s savior. He is merely a politician angling for his next job in public office – and he has a public employee pension, too.
Rather than constantly oppose public employees or hammer away at our rights and benefits, the governor should sit down with us to discuss public safety and the wages, rights and benefits of those sworn to protect communities throughout our state. But to this day the governor still has not met with the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey.
And that’s no lie.
NJTV Interview with PFANJ President Marino -
October 2, 2012
To All IAFF Local Leaders:
Contact Information for IAFF 1st District Vice
(631) 893-9116 (Office)
(917) 834-1414 (Cell) email@example.com
Talking points with respect to S1913 and A3074:
The biggest point is that the legislature should reverse the Richardson Case from 2007. This case changed the criteria for what constitutes an accidental disability thus opening the door for a much easier avenue for members of a pension system to claim a job related disability.
If this were to be repealed, it would go a long way to correcting the issues with the disability pensions.
Other areas of issue:
1. A committee of 26 will not get anything done! Each system already has a board that oversees the system, there is no need to add an additional board.
2. Each system should be responsible for themselves. PERS should not be determining a disability pension for PFRS and likewise.
3. Any reference to Social Security Benefits must be removed, since Firefighters do not pay into social security therefore are not eligible to receive social security benefits.
4. Changing the eligibility years from 4 to 10 for an ordinary disability does a disservice to the firefighter workforce. If a member suffers an injury with prior to completing 10 years and it is not a traumatic injury that member would get no pension. Our profession puts us at harms way every time we go to work. The legislation should not change the number of years.
5. Reducing the disability pension of a firefighter who is no longer able to perform firefighting duties because he or she was able to supplement their income in other ways is disrespectful and unwarranted.
It's a slap in the face to those dedicated firefighters who were injured while serving the public because this legislation would decrease their disability pension if they were to go out and get extra income to provide for their families.
6. The one size fits all about the legislation is wrong. A firefighter or EMS workers level of risk is much greater than a teacher or office worker. The Pension systems must be treated different and separate. If our job functions weren't different, there wouldn't be different systems.
To NJ PERC Constituents, Labor Relations Professionals and Interested
Parties: PERC has modified the Unfair Practice Charge Form, and asks parties to utilize the new form immediately. The changes to the form include hyperlinks, space for a second respondent, and details about the status of negotiations, if any. Additionally, the form seeks more specific information about matters at PERC or other forums that are based upon the same facts alleged in the charge. We hope the new form will expedite
processing of charges.
here for a downloadable and printable IAFF document
and Demonstration of Interest"
for those individuals wishing to learn
and affiliate with the International Association of Fire Fighters...
Kindly fill out the form and then mail it to the
State Association Office