Thursday, April 15, 2010

Putting the Garden State on a Diet

By Alan Caruba

The Greens and the teachers in New Jersey are in a state (no pun intended) of panic. Under a succession of liberal Democrat governors, they have been able to get away with all manner of greed and foolishness, but Republican Governor Chris Christie, a former U.S. prosecutor, has as little patience with them as he did with corrupt politicians who he sent to jail with regularity.

I dare say, if every governor followed his example, the States would benefit from trimmed budgets, reductions in their regulatory mess, and confiscatory public service unions brought to heel.

The latest news from the Garden State is Gov. Christie’s move to take $65 million, the entire allocation, from the state’s global warming fund and apply it to reducing the state’s $10 billion deficit. He also took $5.9 million from the toxic waste site cleanup program.

Since there is no global warming why throw $65 million at something that does not exist? As for toxic waste site cleanups, they are another Environmental Protection Agency boondoggle that is often based on finding little of anything toxic while at the same time rendering countless sites too costly for any new development and thus new jobs or housing.

It just keeps getting better. The State’s Department of Environmental Protection has a proposed $380.6 million budget and Gov. Christie is likely thinking of trimming some of its 1,300 state employees. To save another $1.4 million, their workweek would be reduced from 40 hours to 35 hours. It is doubtful that many New Jerseyeans will be in the streets protesting.

New Jersey has been very Green for a long time. Between 1995 and 2009, the legislature and former governors approved 450 bills to increase the powers of the DEP. Ironically, the number of its employees decreased from 3,700 to 2,995. Its staff is assigned to 57 commissions, 42 “extraneous” bodies, and 30 federal external or national non-profit boards! All contribute in one way or another to increased public funding; often of dubious programs.

The New Jersey Audubon Society, the State’s leading conservation organization, just joined forces with the National Wildlife Federation to get more power with which to demand that every species roaming the state be protected. It’s not like the State isn’t already overrun by huge flocks of federally protected Canada geese, marauding herds of white-tailed deer, black bears that wander into populated areas, coyotes, wild turkeys, and a host of other critters constantly in need of culling.

The other group currently quaking in its boots is the State’s teachers and school administrators. Not far behind are the rest of the civil service union members. These civil servants and their unions have managed to run up huge pension and healthcare benefits that make the private sector look puny by comparison.

The State’s schools, despite chronic budget problems, have been on a hiring spree. As a recent New York Post article reported, “Since 2001, just as budget problems began in earnest, public school enrollment in Jersey has risen by less than 3 percent, or slightly more than 36,000 students. But total school hiring has jumped by 14 percent, or nearly 28,000 employees, according to federal Census statistics.” Do the math; that’s nearly as many new teachers as students!

Working for the schools, state, county, or local entities in New Jersey had benefited employees to the extent that just one example is sufficient to illustrate the fiscal insanity involved.

Writing for American, Claude Sandroff noted in March that in New Jersey “A retired teacher paid $62,000 toward her pension and nothing—yes, nothing—for full family medical, dental, and vision coverage over her entire career. What will we pay her? $1.4 million in pension benefits and another $215,000 in health care benefit premiums over her lifetime.” That pattern is repeated over and over again to the tune of millions per retired public service employee.

The National Education Association, a union, is protesting the pink slips that will be going out to teachers around the nation as towns and cities trim back from the excesses in education spending that have many states in de facto bankruptcy. They want $23 billion from the stimulus bill to be handed over to people who, year after year, produce students who cannot academically compete with their counterparts in nations that spend far less.

The bill has come due for the billions in wasted dollars on cockeyed environmental programs and underperforming schools nationwide.

© Alan Caruba, 2010


Ronbo said...

I predict Governor Chris Christie's New Jersey reforms are a preview of coming attractions for a massive overhaul, some would say a Second Revolution, that will shortly sweep across all the states and the federal government.

As is well known to anyone who has even remotely followed current human events in the USA, the nation is on a course that can only end very badly in a devil's menu of options.

Hard landings being the case no matter which options are selected, I say we may as well use the emergency to get out the old meat ax and chopping away at every program not needed for survival.

Government Employee Unions: CHOP!

Government Employee Pensions: CHOP!

Public School Outlays: CHOP IN HALF!

Pensions For Politicians: CHOP!

You get my drift?

Like a four engine aircraft losing three engines, the crew of the UNITED STATES must throw out most of the cargo to keep from going down short of the airport and killing everyone.

Guy said...

I wish I could find some way to attach my fervent applause to this post! Maybe if Christie's reforms are adopted by other states, and they hack a significant chunk of these perks and freebies out of the public sector and return the money to business and industry where it belongs, it will lure people back to the private sector where they belong.

Public sector employees have no business pulling down salaries and benefits in excess of those in the private sector. We're their employers. When was the last time YOU made more than your boss?