Streams

Broad Strokes and Uphill Battles in Christie's State of the State

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

(Governor's Office/Tim Larsen/Getty)

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's a Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on The Brian Lehrer Show, Mike Kelly, columnist at New Jersey's The Record, ran down Chris Christie's State of the State speech in New Jersey.

In his first-ever State of the State address Tuesday afternoon, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie kept the focus on three big issues: balancing the budget, fixing the state's pension system, and reforming public education.

Those issues are all part of the same beast. One of the reasons New Jersey's budget is so out of whack is that the pension system doesn't have the money to pay for all of the benefits promised to all of the public sector employees. Given that teachers are unionized public employees, and that Christie called New Jersey's public school system "obscene" in his speech on Tuesday, the interconnectedness of these problems — both fiscally and politically — becomes all too apparent. 

Mike Kelly said Christie has his work cut out for him.

New Jersey has a constitutional requirement that the budget be balanced, but more importantly, what is underlying all of this debate is how can they reduce the tax burden on or at least stabilize it for everyone, yet maintain the size of the government and the services they provide. They are in a $54 billion shortfall with the pension system...That is almost twice size of the annual state budget in New Jersey. At same time, New Jersey has over 200 bridges in the state that are considered structurally deficient. We don't have the money to pay retired workers, and don't have the money to fix our bridges. Christie is facing a problem of dollars and cents, not only cents, but sense, which is how do you figure out how to manage this government where there aren't enough resources.

Kelly at least saw good omens in Christie's State of the State address. Though the governor avoided providing specific details about some of his proposals, the overall tone of the speech and its focus on big, pointed issues was welcome.

What these addresses usually become, he goes around the room and talks about the environment, law enforcement, transportation, and you can see the various lobbyists and interested parties perk up whenever he mentions their little cookie jar, so to speak. He didn't do that this time. He talked only about very specific issues: education, the pensions problem, taxes. And he was scarce on specifics with taxes, but he did say that he got through the two percent cap on property taxes, and that is an important achievement.

Kelly said that the pension problem will be Christie's biggest fight in 2011. When he does get to the specifics of how life and livelihood will change for public employees, Christie can expect a lot of backlash from voters, thanks in large part to the sheer volume of New Jersey citizens employed by the government.

This battle is going to be, I think, extremely bloody. Almost 1 in 5 voters in New Jersey is somehow connected to somebody with a public employee's job. Basically 20 percent of the electorate, and that's a significant voting bloc. Christie is talking about taking that lifestyle of high pensions, paying very little for health care as you retire, and turning that wagon over and spilling everything out on the sidewalk saying, "Listen folks, we need to rearrange this."

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Comments [55]

Latonya from Bronx

That teacher who called in was a disgrace. I think it should be a requirement of teaching that one speaks English properly. English is not even my native language and I was wincing listening to him. Teachers need to be held accountable just like any other professional job. period.

Jan. 13 2011 10:25 AM
Mary from Northern NJ

Tenure cannot be completely done away with...it must be made renewable. Otherwise, Boards can get rid of senior teachers because of the bottom $ line. It also opens up the ability of administrators to reward friends (retaining them) and punish (fire) those who they don't personally like. Every 5 years a teacher should come up for tenure review. His/her file should be reviewed by the Board together with administrators (not the administrators alone as there could be favoritism etc involved). This is where the PARTNERSHIP comes in. Parents have to write letters regarding teacher's performance, both pro and con. Teachers would have the ability, at the review time only, to view the letters in their file. Negative letters don't necessarily mean a teacher is bad. It's possible that Mommy thinks Johnny is gifted and is bored by the work and the teacher doesn't recognize it. The teacher would be able to comment on the letter that little Johnny has learning disabilities that Mommy refuses to see and so Mommy blames teacher because Johnny can't do the work. If more letters of complaint are in the file than praise, the teacher would be put on probation with close monitoring for a year at which time their tenure would be reviewed again. In this way, teachers could not be removed simply because it would be cheaper....good teachers would be recognized by granting 5 more years of tenure and poor teachers (whether teaching abilitywise or personalitywise)could be removed without the tumultuous tenure hearings. But parents must be willing to put their praise or complaints in writing. The teachers could also request the Board to review other letters written by a complaining parent over the years regarding other teachers to make sure there isn't a pattern.

Jan. 12 2011 05:28 PM
Ciro from Bergen County

So, the discussion has conveniently been directed to teachers, which is a typical subterfuge to the mask the greater issue: the fiscal health of NJ.

Will we be surprised if the Gov's budget proposal includes more, onerous, "back-door", regressive taxation of the middle and lower income taxpayers, while favoring the upper income and big business interests?

This is not about Republican or Democrat philosophy. It's all about fiscal incompetence - past and present. We need to change Home-Rule laws & regulations and promote statewide Consolidation. Create 50K population towns so we can qualify for Fed grants that other States are enjoying, at our expense.

Will local politicos have a stomach to champion this change? If we REALLY want tax, and debt, relief we should support Consolidation. If not, then we'll deserve being led down a garden path by Chris Christie-Witless, his well-heeled cohorts, and the status-quo, self-absorbed, dysfunctional Democrats, and Republicans ... AGAIN!

Jan. 12 2011 04:07 PM
Mary from Northern NJ

Just because students have good test scores does not make a good teacher. We had a 1st grade teacher who's students learned, but they were emotional wrecks at the end of the school year because of her screaming and belittling of the children. Once when I (a parent) was in the hall and saw her abuse I had another teacher turn and say to me "some people should just not be teachers". Under a merit system, this teacher would be rewarded for her student's grades, but she should NOT be in a classroom. If you were a smart girl you did well, if you were a boy you had one strike against you. If you were a boy with learning difficulties your life was hell for a year. Administrators steered L/D students away from her...but why wasn't her attitude addressed? Anne and Jennifer has is right in some instances. Administrators must do THEIR job. In some cases principals are too cozy with their teachers (especially if they were once a teacher themselves in that school). We had a principal who just observed the teachers for 10 minutes and then processed ther reivews. Ed has it wrong.....home life DOES impact on students. If parents are alcoholics, if there are money problems, if a parent has cancer how does that NOT impact on a child's ability to concentrate? I loved the book The Marva Collin's Way in which she took students from Chicago's southside and opened a school. Those students excelled. When I gave the book to a teacher friend to read, her comment was that those children had parents who cared. They made sure their children did their homework...they were active in the school. Its a PARTNERSHIP. I speak from having taken education courses in college, having 3 children educated in public schools, been a teacher aide and a member of a Board of Education. I also have 9 friends who are teachers, 1 friend a principal and 1 friend a superintendent. Christie's approach is too simplistic. It's not all the teachers and its not all the teachers' fault.

Jan. 12 2011 03:28 PM
Janine from Edison

I am tired of being lumped into a stereotype of an "underperforming teacher" and hearing our governor spew out lies on your airwaves!! Let's clarify some of the facts: #1) Tenured teachers CAN lose their jobs. #2) Under former Governor Corzine—NJ Public schools were the BEST in the Nation! 3#) NJ public schools—on the average ARE NOT failing #4) Starting with former Governor Whitman—and every governor since, has failed to pay into our pension system (Is this legal? Reminiscent of ENRON?). #5) Taxes HAVE GONE UP in local municipalities—due to the cuts to public education—thanks to Governor Christie! #6) In my district and throughout the state many teachers HAVE lost their jobs & many programs benefitting students, HAVE been cut—due to Governor Christie lack of support! #7) Most teachers work for much less than people in the private sector, because they love and care about their students. #8) Tenure was originally put into place to prevent cronyism and to allow teachers to give the students of politicians fair grades—without the threat of job loss. #9) In my district, we DO pay into our healthcare benefits! I have a unique perspective, having worked in the private-sector for 14 years, prior to becoming a public school teacher. Readers—rather than resenting me, because I have a union to protect my rights as an employee—why don't you organize to protect yours? Why doesn't anyone talk about how the CEOs now make 70—100% more than they did in the 1970s?? —While YOU are asked to do more & more for less & less... I've been there, doing the job of 3 or 4 laid-off co-workers! WNYC—why don't you investigate how Goldman-Sachs has invested in charter schools & others in the private-sector are secretly planning to take over public education, do away with teachers' unions & conquer the "last frontier" left—public education—to turn into profit centers, called: Charter Schools?? With these types of schools, although tax-payer money supports them, but they are run like private schools—to make a profit. Teachers have the same rights as private-sector employees—with virtually no rights; no unions & these schools can pick & choose the students they want to admit into their school—in order to keep their test scores up! If you are a parent of a Special Education child or an ESL child—you may find it hard to find a school that will admit your child. Is THAT what we want for NJ?? Our public schools WORK better in NJ than the rest of the country—why are we acting like they don't???...WNYC, PLEASE ask the governor, his base, Goldman-Sachs and the folks pushing for charter schools this question!! Thanks!

Jan. 12 2011 11:37 AM
John Lobell from NYC

JulieMG writes:
"Well, here is the answer. HAVE THE TEACHERS TAKE THE EXACT SAME EXAM!!!! Then let's have the discussion."

John, the majority of the teachers at my highly-ranked public school possess masters degrees in their subjects. I'm pretty sure that every one of us could pass a high school basic skills test without breaking a sweat.

Exactly. And you are confident that the same would be the case in inner city school? And -- are you equally disturbed by my proposal on professionalization?

Jan. 12 2011 11:34 AM

Christie's attack on teachers, tenure, and his "demand" that layoffs be based on "merit" rather than seniority, is just part of an attack on all public employees and their unions.
The rightwing has always opposed unions and what they call "big government." Christie is demagogically using the education of our children, the economic crisis, and the unfair--growing--income disparity between the very wealthy and the rest of us to pit the public against teachers and public employee unions. The caller who complained that police and other public employees are unfairly paid more than her architect husband should call for higher pay for her husband, not lower wages for public employees. The same goes for private sector workers who complain about the wages, benefits, and pensions of public sector workers. The rightwing has instigated a race to the bottom, and public employee unions are the first line of attack.

Jan. 12 2011 11:31 AM
Charles Harris from island heights nj

Two issues:

1.Guns guns guns
2. Getting dangerous people off the streets

Research to determine whether MRI can demonstrate pattern of behavior common to those not subject to normal inhibitions imposed by social and religious society

Jan. 12 2011 11:20 AM

I don't agree with Gov. Christie regarding teacher tenure, teacher lay-offs or merit pay. Tenure is a form of due process and should be preserved. Many times there is a financial motive to not wanting to lay-off by seniority. Senior cost more. As for merit pay, real school reform starts with teacher collaboration and professionalization while individual merit pay encourages competition.

Jan. 12 2011 11:09 AM

"Well, here is the answer. HAVE THE TEACHERS TAKE THE EXACT SAME EXAM!!!! Then let's have the discussion."

John, the majority of the teachers at my highly-ranked public school possess masters degrees in their subjects. I'm pretty sure that every one of us could pass a high school basic skills test without breaking a sweat.

Are we all then meritorious? Highly-qualified? Great teachers? Terrific! I look forward to all of us receiving our enormous merit bonuses.

No doubt the check is in the mail, along with NJ's missing 14 years worth of pension contributions.

Jan. 12 2011 11:08 AM
Elizabeth from NYC

About the teacher tenure topic: I just finished a graduate program in Education. I did interships in 3 public schools in NYC. What I saw was a lot of hard working teachers in classrooms where it was almost impossible to get information across for a variety of reasons. There is not enough support from administration.
I somewhat agree with a plan for paying teachers based on merit. My concern is the tone this topic is taking with politicians. It seems overly critical. It's possible teachers are being scapegoated. I heard in one of my graduate courses that there is a history of underappreciating teachers and that one of the reasons is gender. The tone of the politicians could be interpreted as taking advantage of a culture of misogyny to further their platform. This is destructive for a variety of reasons. The reasons related to education are:
1. It will drive away professionals who could otherwise be good teachers.
2. It sends a message to students that they are not accountable for their education and they can disrespect their teachers.

Jan. 12 2011 11:07 AM

I don't know where the public gets the idea that teachers don't pay into their pension system. 5.5% of every one of my paychecks goes into the NJ Teachers Pension Fund.

By law, the State of NJ is supposed to make deposits into that fund every year, but they have missed that payment for almost all of the past 16 years. Then, Christie has the gall to complain that "the taxpayers" are tired of funding our pensions!

I've got news for Christie: the only taxpayers currently paying for teacher pensions are...teachers!

Jan. 12 2011 11:05 AM

Julie from Bergen County asks ---
How do you judge the "merit" of a school librarian? A high school world languages teacher? An art, music or physical education teacher? NJ high school students take the HSPA exam in 11th grade.

Well, here is the answer. HAVE THE TEACHERS TAKE THE EXACT SAME EXAM!!!! Then let's have the discussion.

Jan. 12 2011 11:00 AM
Lisa from Central NJ

I am very frustrated by the perception that public employees are lazy leeches who don't earn their paychecks and benefits. I am a teacher, and I pay into the pension system and contribute to my benefit package.
I will advocate an end to tenure when the school system can guarantee that I will not be physically or verbally threatened by parents and students, and I will be on favor of individual merit pay when my students come to school properly fed and nutured and their families make education their top priority.
Why is the governor perpetuating the notion that NJ public schools are failing? Many states have no unions or tenure, yet their schools are inferior to ours. There is no evidence that individual merit pay helps students in any way.
This is class warfare and a vendetta against those who did not support the governor. Upper middle class residents feel that middle class workers don't have the right to earn a decent wage.

Jan. 12 2011 11:00 AM
Brian from Brooklyn

Why not systems where years of service counts towards the total score. There is no merit system that is completely accurate and objective. Years of service should be a strong factor but, not the only one.

Jan. 12 2011 10:58 AM
Ann from New York

I am a substitute teacher in NYC after teaching for 13 years in New York City High Schools. I would like to know where is the administrative staff of a school and the parents of students who think they are entitled to be defiant, disrespectful and curse me out after I ask to do the work that was left for them by their teacher. This has happened numerous times and I have followed procedure time and time again- writing them up, calling security/deans to remove the child [who look aghast that I would ask them to do this] and then following up with a verbal conference with administrators [who look at me with crestfallen faces.] Why are these people not called to the carpet? How can a teacher be considered effective if this is allowed to go on? And if the procedures in place are not working, maybe it is high time that we consider new procedures that put the rights of the group and the teacher above those of the individual student. The teaching bashing rhetoric is just getting worse and worse yet we do not take into account that a school is made of up more people that just teachers.

Jan. 12 2011 10:58 AM
Ed from Maplewood

how do you judge merit? nothing is easy, of course, and everything must consider extraordinary circumstances. But, why can't every kid have a measure taken at the beginning of the year, and again at the end of the year. The measure could include academics, interest, maturation, whatever. The teacher is then judged by the progress the kid makes. No measures are easy, but those who would stake their remuneration on a goals / reward system deserve the best.
Otherwise, let's just go to delivery of information and take all responsibility away from the teacher for whatever the kid does.
Stop blaming the home life - it's a condition of your customers, deal with it.

Jan. 12 2011 10:56 AM
Cathy from Somerset, NJ

I think there must be a lot of misinformation out there and I find it hard to sift through: What are the actual salaries of the different employees in the public sector vs. the private sector? Who gets what benefits for free? Are employees who put their lives at risk compensated for this added responsibility? This confusion is probably because public employees are a diverse group. For me, I am a professor at one of NJ's community colleges. I do pay into my health and retirement benefits. The academic freedom and security of tenure are main reasons why I chose to go into education, in addition to my love of teaching. With a PhD in biochemistry, I would be making much more in industry (I would guess at least 40% more salary), but those jobs are really volatile and there is much less freedom of research pursuits. I think this is an important issue to discuss, but it is much more complicated than the governor presents.

Jan. 12 2011 10:55 AM
Sam

I'm married to a teacher and I have heard some stories about bad teachers- a lot of stories. If there could be a fair way to reward good teachers and get rid of bad teachers I would be in favor of it. But a tenured teacher makes a lot more money than a new teacher. And when Christie says he doesn't want tenure to protect bad teachers, I get concerned that the well-earned salaries of experienced teachers will hold them to a higher standard than new teachers whose enthusiasm hasn't borne the test of time. Teachers are already being selected for dismissal in the New York City system at least partially because their salaries are too high and administration could hire two or three teachers for the salary of a teacher with 15 years experience. If experience shouldn't protect teachers it should also not penalize them.

Jan. 12 2011 10:54 AM
Susan from Montclair

Seasoned teachers with more seniority are more EXPENSIVE! This is a cheap ploy to cut budgets at the expense of students.

Jan. 12 2011 10:53 AM
Jennifer

Why do news reporters continue to allow politicians to claim that principals cannot remove poor performing teachers? The principals are the people who hire the teachers in their schools! Moreover, even a tenured teacher can be removed after two unsatisfactory observations, which can be done in relatively rapid succession (two successive months, for example). Poor performing teachers are often kept because they are assigned to the toughest classes that no one wants to take for obvious reasons. Principals need the bodies! Why are principals and other administrators held blameless when they receive hefty salaries and pensions, yet have little direct impact in the classroom? Why are they held blameless when they are responsible for things like staffing, scheduling, supply-ordering, and facilities management? Problems with the aforementioned responsibilities are usually the reason for dysfunction at poor performing schools. When are reporters really going to examine these issues closely?

Full disclosure: I am not a teacher, but I have taught before and have seen the system from the inside out. I currently work in the private sector and one sees the same issues of uneven performance in the workforce and difficulty deciding how to reward or penalize performance. I am a parent of children in public school and feel that this incessant attack on the teachers who are trying their hardest is not going to benefit my children or any other people's children currently in the system. We want our kids to be taught subject matter, not be used as guinea pigs for ideologues.

Jan. 12 2011 10:52 AM

what rich person uproots his family and moves because of high taxes?
where would he move? alabama ?if he want to live in the 3rd world let him!
rich people don't pay taxes any way!!

Jan. 12 2011 10:52 AM
Julie from Bergen County

Christie "demands" (sorry, Governor, you can govern, but not demand), that layoffs be judged by "merit." I've worked in the NJ system for almost 20 years, and I can tell you that if they were free to do so, many superintendents, business administrators and Boards of Ed would find a way to prove that the employees with the most "merit" are just coincidentally the youngest, least educated, and therefore cheapest employees. Without tenure and seniority, in times of budgetary crisis, why wouldn't you eliminate your 25-year veteran teacher so you could keep 2.5 newbies for the same price, keeping class sizes low, costs down and the community happy? The ensuing lack of experience and leadership would be a disaster, but wouldn't show up in the scores for a year or two, by which time, we'd be on to the next crisis.

These rules are in place for a reason.

Jan. 12 2011 10:51 AM
louise from Park Slope

I always hear government officials say that the money has nothing to do with achievement in the school system. I totally disagree! Although it is only one factor, it is an important one. This is just an excuse to cut school budgets even more.

As far as merit pay is concerned, I agree with the caller who said it will be extremely difficult to measure. How do you determine whether a teacher is doing a good job considering all the variables involved? If they base merit pay on students' test scores, I am completely against it.

Jan. 12 2011 10:50 AM
linda from Ocean, NJ

Please pardon my above typos. I don't type well when I am very angry.

Jan. 12 2011 10:48 AM
Christine from ny

Teaching is so politicized it would be impossible to judge teachers fairly on merit. if you want to improve learning any teacher will tell you to lower class size, but no one wants to hear it, because it requires $$$$.

Jan. 12 2011 10:48 AM

Annette
i am thankful men and women are willing to put their "life on the line everyday."

it is sad that there is more consideration for millionaires than the working people in NJ and in this nation.

Jan. 12 2011 10:47 AM
Julie from Bergen County

How do you judge the "merit" of a school librarian? A high school world languages teacher? An art, music or physical education teacher? NJ high school students take the HSPA exam in 11th grade. How, then do you measure the effectiveness of their senior English teacher? If the students fare poorly on this 11th grade assessment, who lacks merit? The freshman teacher? The middle school Language Arts teacher? Christie doesn't know because no one knows.

Jan. 12 2011 10:47 AM
Terry from Jersey City, NJ

As one caller said, the question is HOW DO YOU DETERMINE MERIT? When teachers are dealing with children who come from broken homes, poverty, drug and legal problems, etc. etc. etc., the teacher often "can't win." I keep hearing about all these studies that document the fact that the most important factor in a child's success is parental involvement. Any criteria to judge teacher performance has to be able to take this into account.

Jan. 12 2011 10:46 AM
Brian from Brooklyn

Teachers are chronically underpaid. Bankers, lawyers like Christie and actuaries like me are chronically overpaid. Remedy that and teacher quality will improve.

Jan. 12 2011 10:45 AM
Patricia from NYC

I'm so sick of pols, like Christie, putting all the responsibility on teachers. I'm not a teacher but I know how hard they work. No one goes into teaching because the pay is great, it isn't. Instead let's talk about the laziness of parents that don't spend anytime with their kids reinforcing lessons from school. Tracking what their kids are learning and what lessons aren't sticking. No, we want the teachers to be responsible for everything. CRAZINESS!!!!!!! Turn off the TV, make them put down the Nintendo....read to your child.

Jan. 12 2011 10:44 AM
dba from nyc

Students in high performing schools are taught by tenured union teachers. Why is this the case? No one seems to address this fact which contradicts the mantra that low performing schools result from tenured union teachers.

Are all the teachers in these high performing schools good while all the teachers in the low performing schools bad? This defies logic.

Jan. 12 2011 10:43 AM
John Lobell from NYC

Teaching is the only area (I will not call it a profession) where merit cannot be judged???? Here's the plan -- teaching should be PROFESSIONALIZED -- like doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects, etc. That means getting a masters degree in your area of teaching (not just education), passing a rigorous registration exam, being judged by peers and superiors, taking continuing education credits every year, etc.

Jan. 12 2011 10:43 AM
Sally from Park Slope

I'm a retired NYC teacher. I've seen good and bad teachers. I'm wondering who will rate teachers. I've seen good and bad administrators also.

Jan. 12 2011 10:43 AM
Rusty-Dab

The rich cannot be taxed because they might leave the state; but since the working class doesn't have such power over The State, their pensions, health benefits, and wages can be cut. This is class war. The working class in the private sector has long been loosing ground; now, the opportunity arises for lowering the public sector workers standard of living.

Jan. 12 2011 10:42 AM
bernie from bklyn

is the teachers union too strong and influential? yes, they are but it seems like christie is scapegoating the teachers.
the parents have to be involved in this equation. what if a teacher has a classroom full of hooligans who don't care about anything or anyone and their parents are idiots who should've never had children. what is a teacher supposed to do? some kids are unteachable and that has to be factored into this equation.

Jan. 12 2011 10:42 AM
Ed from Maplewood

absolutely! every teacher / public worker that cries you don't understand is part of the problem. Teachers have not stepped up to drive out the insanity in their industry, so the customers must do so. End tenure, end the unions. The job is incredibly hard, but someone has to lead - and the teachers' unions have provided no solutions.

Jan. 12 2011 10:41 AM
David from West Hempstead

@RLewis

I got the actual numbers wrong, that's my mistake. It's just important to keep in mind that screaming "SEVENTYFIVEPERCENT" without context is profoundly unhelpful to advance one's understanding of the issue.

Another complaint: the 'race to the bottom' rhetoric with respect to public employee compensation is quite disturbing. Why are we not instead asking why the private sector does not compensate its employees better? Wages have remained relatively flat over the last thirty years for middle-income earners.

Jan. 12 2011 10:41 AM
Katie from Huntington, NY

You cannot lay off on merit when you don't have a merit program in place. Teachers are reviewed with "satisfactory" or "Poor." Rather than fire these teachers, we should invest in mentoring programs to make better teachers.

Jan. 12 2011 10:41 AM
linda from ocean, NJ

Brian,

the architects wife was incorrect and demonstrates one of the problems in this state - that people would rather be angry than informed. She stated that "they pay nothing toward their pension. In fact, asignificant part of my husband's paycheck (he's a school prinicpal) goes toward his pension and he DOES pay toward healthcare.

When times are flush, no one envies a teacher. in difficult times, they become targets. she seems to have a status issue being married to an architect who isn't making as much as a teacher. and referring to teachers and police as "these people" indicates, again, the success of the uninformed rhetoric on the airwaves and in print.

Jan. 12 2011 10:41 AM

As a young public employee who gets badgered by Mom & Dad on when I'm going to get a "real job" and one who is married to a public school teacher, I hope that the Governor has turned a corner and will stop treating us like a money-hungry enemy of the people. Governors and legislatures from *both* political parties have been underfunding and mismanaging our pensions for almost 20 years.
I'm glad that Christie is at least acknowledging the problems with the pension and wants to do something about it. I don't mind working a few more years or increasing my contributions to the pension in order for me to survive in retirement, but the state has to live up to its end of the deal and make the required pension contributions that Senate President Sweeney is rightfully insisting it do.

Jan. 12 2011 10:40 AM
Annette from Rahway

My husband is a police officer in Union County. He is retiring this year. His pension is 60% of his salary and he is paying $450 per month toward his benefits. He is NOT getting of "free ride". Unlike an architect, he puts his life on the line everyday, and unlike the state and town he works for, he paid into his pension system for 25 years. He is only asking what he was promised. He works hard and does not sleep on the job. He is not the exception, he is the rule in his department.

Jan. 12 2011 10:40 AM
Fafa from Harlem

In the private sector, workers have lost massively despite substantial productivity gains. They have been displaced, have seen wages decrease absolutely, etc.. THE LAST CALLER'S STORY ABOUT HER UNDER-COMPENSATED HUSBAND IS A GREAT EXAMPLE. But she wants to punish middle class public sector workers, instead of the plutocrats that are exploiting him and benefiting from increasing returns at the expense of everyone else. Why advocate for a race to the bottom, instead of confronting the unsustainable structural problems of this economy? And why doesn't Brian - who I admire a lot - ever pose such questions? It's amazing how skewed these discussions are; how much perspective they lack.

Jan. 12 2011 10:40 AM

we act like there was no contract negotiation. the government agreed to pay for these packages but they didn't plan ahead.

Also the people of NJ seem to be unhappy with their local governments but instead of vote in local elections for change they demand the state fix their local governing problems.

Jan. 12 2011 10:39 AM
Ciro from Bergen County

No politician in NJ has been vocal on TRUE consolidation.

This effort alone coukd solve our fiscal crisis.

There is a movement called Courage To Connect NJ, www.couragetoconnectnj.org , headed by Gina Genovese, a former NJ town Mayor.

We have a viable working model called Woodbridge Township.

If Chris Christie-Witless wants a solution to our fiscal issues he should be embracing this concept.

Jan. 12 2011 10:38 AM
Ken from NYC

Christie wants to roll things back - perhaps NJ'ers should roll Christie back! He'll be easy to roll - as the old ad goes, he's "so round, so firm, so fully-packed"!

Jan. 12 2011 10:37 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Bravo to the architect's wife!!!
The "lower pay" of public workers is now a myth after all these years of relentless increases assured by the politicians that their unions elect.

Jan. 12 2011 10:37 AM
Jay from Norwalk CT

This is all about the reduction of wages / living standard all around. The idea of public sector employees benefits being more inline with the private sector- the problem is that the private sectors wages are being depressed. Why should that be the model. The woman whose husband is an architect makes the point perfectly when she laughed at the thought of her husband become a police offices- the people are doing jobs (not in every situation) that people with careers do not want to do.

Jan. 12 2011 10:37 AM
Katie from Huntington, NY

Why does everyone have to make exactly the same salary and get exactly the same benefits? It doesn't work that way. Teachers make a lower salary, but get a nice pension after many years of teaching the future generation, and possibly health coverage; those in business get much higher salaries and other benefits. It's is not true that teachers don't pay anything into their health insurance. And Christie is wrong. Long Island teachers on the whole are paid better than elsewhere, and we have the best schools in New York.

Jan. 12 2011 10:36 AM
TMP from tarrytown

re. "Cushy lifestyles of public employees". My husband now works for the State
( NY) , yes he gets health insurance and will get a pension. He also makes %30 of the salary he formerly made in the private sector. By the way those "cushy' pensions are based upon those low salaries...

Jan. 12 2011 10:33 AM
maximalist18 from Rockaway, NJ

As a former county employee I now receive a pension from the state pension system. Every year which I was employed money was deducted from my salary. Unfortunately, neither the state nor the county contributed to the system. this was not the fault of the unions. I remember being told by the Human Resources person( in my agency) that because the stock market was doing so well that the county did not have to add to the fund.

Jan. 12 2011 10:32 AM
charle harris from ISLAND HEIGHTS NJ

When you cut taxes but cut services, cut medicaid, reduce staffs etc an fire people MAYBE YOU ARE CUTTING TAXES BUT YOU ARE TAXING PEOPLE WHO LOSE THEIR JOBS. MONEY SAVED GOES TO THE STATE.

I WOULD BE MORE IMPRESSED IFM HE INCREASE TAXES FOR THE VERY WEALTHY AND STOPPED WORRYING THAT THEY WOULD LEAVE THE STATE.

Jan. 12 2011 10:31 AM
RLewis from the bowery

David, you are guilty of your own complaint: "The increase now goes to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who supports the plan to temporarily raise the personal tax rate to 5 percent, a two-thirds increase from the current 3 percent rate." When it comes to truthiness, you make the Left look no different than the Right.

Jan. 12 2011 10:23 AM
Suzie from Manhattan

Christie is a bully and a baby. The NJEA didn't support him for governor so now he's out to get them. He's gone so far as to sabotage a grant for federal education money because the NJEA helped with the proposal. Do I have to re-post the youtube clip of him telling teenage students that their teachers were not at a convention, but were parting at their expense. Yes I do, check out the link
http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid616303324001?bctid=665566293001

Jan. 12 2011 10:15 AM
David from West Hempstead

Why do we allow politicians to spew numbers without context? Illinois' "75% tax increase" in its state income tax sounds horrific, but it's an increase from 2% to 3.5%.

The horror.

Jan. 12 2011 10:12 AM

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