Friday, March 12, 2010
Hurricane Christie Hits New Jersey!
By Alan Caruba
When the news that Republican Chris Christie had been elected Governor of New Jersey first hit Washington, D.C. they began to hang black crepe over the windows in the White House.
This decidedly Democrat and politically liberal State had done something fairly extraordinary; a majority of the voters had concluded that something was seriously wrong with the way the State had long been run. (He was the first Republican Governor in twelve years.) Concurrently, Virginia also elected a Republican to be its Governor.
Gov. Christie had gained notice as a United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey as he sent one crooked politician after another to jail. In a State famous for its crooked politicians, the novelty of seeing them brought to justice morphed into the notion that he could do even greater things for the State.
During the campaign Gov. Christie was outspent two-to-one and among the organizations contributing millions to defeat him was the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers.
Since his inauguration in January it has definitely not been business-as-usual in the statehouse. The last Governor, Jon Corzine, was so deeply attached to the civil service unions that a former “companion”, Carla Katz, had been the head of the Communications Workers of America local until suspended from the office in 2008.
The headline in the March 11th edition of the State’s largest circulation newspaper, the Star-Ledger, read “N.J. Gov. Chris Christie plans privatization of as many as 2,000 state jobs.”
“As he grapples with an $11 billion deficit in the budget he will present on Tuesday, Christie is also considering invoking the Disaster Control Act to suspend Civil Service rules to make it easier for him to lay off higher paid workers, according to two administration officials.”
Hurricane Christie has arrived in New Jersey!
Much of the budget of the Garden State is directly traceable to the enormous expense of civil service salaries, pensions, and other perks that have been negotiated with the Communications Works of America, the teacher's union, and others that represent civil servants.
Expanding government at the state and federal level is classic Democrat politics dating back to the era of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It’s being noticed now as the recession settles in and people ask why working for the government generates higher pay than working in the private sector.
Serendipitously, The Washington Times carried a March 11th article, “Government workers feel no economic pain”, noting that “The recession and the ongoing jobless recovery devastated much of the private-sector work force last year, sending unemployment soaring, but government workers emerged essentially unscathed, according to data released Wednesday by the Labor Department.”
“Meanwhile, the compensation for state and local government employees continued to easily outdistance the wages and benefits for workers in private business, a separate Labor Department report shows.”
In January, a Cato Institute Tax & Budget Bulletin devoted to employee compensation in state and local governments revealed that, “To reduce deficits, large savings can be found in the general compensation packages of the nation’s 20 million state and local workers. In 2008, wages and benefits of $1.1 trillion accounted for half of total state and local government spending.” (Emphasis added)
Chris Edwards, Director of the Institute’s Tax Policy Studies, noted that “Public sector pay averaged $39.66 per hour in 2009, which was 45 percent higher than the private sector average. The public sector advantage was 34 percent in wages and 70 percent in benefits.”
Among the advantages cited was early retirement, typically at age 55 after 30 years as in California’s CalPERs system. Pension formulas in virtually all public sector plans calculate benefits based on pay in the last one to three years of work. Then there’s the practice of double dipping, common to New Jersey, California, and other States when public workers are allowed to “retire” early and then either resume their existing job or take a new one, thus receiving a pension and a salary at the same time.
Add to this disability claims and excessive benefits and the nation now faces deficits in virtually every State and at the federal level as far as the eye can see. As unemployment increases, private sector workers are no longer paying taxes, thus reducing government revenue.
It is a crisis of vast dimensions and one brought about by voracious public sector unions that represent funding for politicians seeking election and workers for their campaigns.
As the economic crisis deepens, Governors will be following Christie’s lead, watching how successful he is in reducing bloated work forces and ending the drain on a state’s ability to address infrastructure and other essential tasks.
© Alan Caruba, 2010