Yesterday, I received an email from one of our readers, Ed Mecka, from Hoboken, New Jersey, who turned me on to an article regarding the pension crisis that is taking place in Memphis, Tennessee. The crisis in Memphis has caught the national media’s attention, and an article was printed in the Wall Street Journal a few days ago in regard to the same. The following are some excerpts from this Wall Street Journal article that I believe hit particularly close to home in regard to the potential “fall-out” that we currently face here in New Jersey with our own pension debacle.
This past July, half of the police officers in Memphis, Tennessee began to engage in organized “job actions” to protest reductions being implemented to the Public Employee’s Pension System. These job actions did little good as the government began to overhaul the pension system and as a result, the city has seen police and fire fighters resigning from their positions of employment en masse.
“I can’t justify me putting my life on the line, and not knowing if my family would be taken care of,” said Joseph Vaughn, a 35-year-old Memphis native who quit his hometown fire department last month for a lower-paying job in Alabama because it has a traditional pension. His defined-benefit pension plan in Memphis would have changed in 2016 to a new hybrid that is designed more like the retirement accounts in the private sector. Since the pension overhaul, more than 250 police and firefighters have quit city employment and new recruits are proving difficult to attract.
The City of Memphis has abandoned its traditional defined-benefit pension plan and has opted to move to a 401(k)-style pension system. Sound familiar? It should because this is the same type of plan to overhaul the New Jersey Public Employee Pension System that Governor Christie introduced at his latest budget address and is now touting as the latest and greatest solution to our current pension crisis.
New Jersey’s Governor and State Legislature needs to examine the problems that Memphis is now facing as a result of this unwanted and unwelcomed pension overhaul. Do we want a mass exodus of our public safety officers in New Jersey? Do we want our cities, municipalities, counties and the state itself to have difficulty attracting the best candidates for public safety positions? Lets face it, we pay some of the highest taxes in the nation but we also get some pretty decent services here in the Garden State. Everyone out there knows full well that if the Public Employee Pension System is overhauled in a manner similar to what was done in Memphis, our taxes aren’t going to go down. Think about the last plan that the Governor touted that would lower your taxes–the two percent (2%) interest arbitration salary cap. The salary cap has been in place for five (5) years now. Has anyone seen a reduction in their property taxes?
New Jersey take a look at what’s going on in Memphis, Tennessee. Remember the quote, “Those who can not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. We are better than that here in New Jersey–Lets start showing the country that we respect our public safety officers and public employees for the services they perform by honoring our pension obligations.