Keep local property taxpayers in mind when considering state pension reforms: Letter
(Letters to the Editor/The Star-Ledger)
The League of Municipalities recently submitted a statement to Governor Chris Christie’s Blue Ribbon Pension and Health Benefit Study Commission, in which we urged the Commission not to weaken the vitality of the local plans.
State leaders deserve credit for the 2010 and 2011 bipartisan pension and benefit reforms. Coupled with the consistent payments made by responsible local governing bodies, these reforms are working.
When analyzing the health of public employee pension and benefit systems, experts always distinguish between local commitments for local employees and retirees, and those for the State. The 2011 reforms included the separation of the systems - one for the State and another for the locals. Currently, the local government Public Employees Retirement System is funded 73.9 percent and the local Police and Fire Retirement System is funded at 76.9 percent, and are actuarially sound.
We recognize the underlying State’s funding crisis, and we commend the Governor and the Commission for their attention to these issues. Our concern, however, is the Commission may propose solutions for the State system that could result in new problems and higher costs for the local property taxpayer. That is an unintended consequence that no one wants, and should be avoided.
Suzanne Walters, Stone Harbor
The author is the mayor of Stone Harbor and president of New Jersey State League of Municipalities.