|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: December 10, 2006
|CONTACT: Anthony Coley
|| PHONE: 609-777-2600
GOVERNOR'S LETTER TO SENATE PRESIDENT CODEY AND ASSEMBLY SPEAKER ROBERTS ON PENSION BENEFIT REFORMS
December 10, 2006
The Honorable Richard J. Codey
449 Mount Pleasant Avenue
West Orange, New Jersey 07052
The Honorable Joseph J. Roberts, Jr.
Brooklawn Shopping Plaza
Route 130 & Browning Road
Brooklawn, New Jersey 08030
Dear Senate President Codey and Speaker Roberts:
It is with serious concern that I write to you about your public comments made before the Star Ledger Editorial Board. You claim that my efforts to respect the collective bargaining process for career employees hinders the Legislature's ability to move forward with an overall package of sustainable property tax relief and reform. It is also asserted that you were unaware of my views regarding how best to proceed with pension reform. Respectfully, I disagree on both counts. Nonetheless, if you continue to hold these views, I encourage you to lead the Legislature forward with the originally proposed pension reform bill, or alternatively, one that you judge will build the broadest consensus among your colleagues. Together, we can and must deliver sustainable relief and reform.
As I noted in my letter of December 7th, the Legislature has the unchallenged authority to act on pension issues outside of the collective bargaining process. The essential question has always been how do we best achieve our common objectives of delivering to New Jersey's taxpayers maximum savings and reforms. I think we can all agree that it is absolutely certain that maximizing savings in wages, health benefits, and pension benefits must be an essential part of any financing package for property tax relief.
As I have made clear in our private conversations, my administration's analysis shows that two of the most critical areas for financial savings for New Jersey taxpayers are wages and health benefits. These subjects are generally agreed upon as elements of collective bargaining. I believe that optimizing comprehensive reform and cost savings among wages, health benefits, and pension benefits can best be achieved through discussions with representatives of public employee bargaining units. As I have communicated, taking one element out of that mix, namely pensions, may well compromise potential savings on the others and leave the state taxpayers with higher overall costs, diminishing our ability to provide property tax relief.
As I am sure you are aware, my administration has and will continue to work diligently in contract negotiations with the appropriate bargaining units. In fact, as is publicly known, we have been in discussions since October. We will continue to seek to deliver a contract and agreements that maximize savings among all three elements ---wages, health benefits, and pension benefits.
Let me also assure you that my administration commends the Pension and Benefit Committee on its bold commitment to move forward with significant reforms to curb pension abuses for elected and appointed officials. This is the area where most of the significant pension abuses have been identified. I believe there is absolute consensus that we must act on these matters. As you know, I have always supported, and will continue to support, these efforts. At the same time, we must acknowledge that pension abuse reforms bring little impact to an overall financial package. That said, these reforms most certainly do provide necessary credibility to our efforts.
As we all can agree, providing sustainable property tax relief and reform should be our number one responsibility to the people of New Jersey. We must also accept that relief must be paid for on a recurring basis, and the financing package needed for this result is not yet in place. Moreover, we are all aware that pension reform, while important, is only a small part of the overall changes that are needed to provide sustainable property tax relief. If in your judgment the originally proposed pension reform plan gets us closer to long-lasting reform, I will respectfully and objectively evaluate the merits of that legislation when it reaches my desk. I agree that the specific elements of what is included in pension reform legislation at this time is a judgment call. Make your best judgment and move forward, but do not allow this issue to slow or impede our shared and overarching objectives.
Let me close by reiterating that we have a common mission, and that there are many good proposals we have worked together to shape and promote. We should get on with these efforts and bring them to conclusion. Together, we should make history by serving the needs of the citizens of New Jersey.
Jon S. Corzine
Cc: Senator Scutari