O’Scanlon: “This is a crtical moment for our children’s future”

By Senator Declan O’Scanlon

Senator Declan O’Scanlon

So. This is what it’s come to. Incredibly, we just passed one of the largest tax increases in the history of the state…and we’re no more than one, infinitesimal, step closer to sustainable solvency than we were the day before. And trust me, we are very ($ billions) far away. We don’t need infinitesimal steps, we need bold leaps…and we need bold leadership willing to make them.

Our Governor, who I held out hope might lead us in the right direction based on the reasoned work he did on his 2005 pension reform report, has – at least this year – philosophically left the sinking ship (Google: Francesco Schettino) into which he is bailing….the wrong way. The rest of us don’t have his hundreds of $ millions, which at the same time precludes us from not caring how much it costs to stay here, and prevents us from leaving. He has proposed phasing in $ billions of new spending on programs no one is clamoring for, and that we can’t afford even if they were. He has prioritized these new programs over paying the bills for programs to which we’ve already committed. You know, pesky things, like fully funding our pension system and 911 communications and special education and property tax relief. Unsexy stuff like that. And the people who will suffer most from these misplaced priorities – public workers whose pensions are at dire risk – are miraculously complicit in the building of the next floor of this house of cards.

 

I’ve spent more time analyzing the state budget than just about anyone else. I know the depth of our dilemma and just about all the options. Those public workers who see the path the Governor has, so far, taken us down as the one to salvation are myopically sowing the seeds of their own fiscal destruction. Their families’ long-term welfare is at stake here. Time to act like adults. In reality, those of us championing working with public workers on reforms that will lead to long term viability of our state budget, and workers retirement and health benefits systems, are the good guys. The reality is that if we take action quickly, the choice isn’t stark. Public workers need not fear, taxpayers need not cringe. Although I’m heartbroken we lost – in this budget cycle – a true opportunity to start down a path to solvency, and a positive political career defining moment for Governor Murphy (it might still prove to be career-defining, I’m certain it won’t be positive), there is still hope, for him and for the rest of us.

Time for us all to accept the math. I realize that we’ve kicked the can down the road for decades. I get that it’s tempting to think we can continue to do so. But that’s simply not true. Our time is running out. We are one mild recession away from the bottom falling out. We’ve never been here before. The reforms we enacted in 2011 – although hated by public workers – bought us some time and were a logical and necessary first step toward saving state pension systems and NJ’s economy. But they didn’t solve the problem. We know what that next steps are. And they are the ONLY steps. There simply are no other options for substantial cost savings than another round of pension and health benefits reforms. And these reforms can be done in a way that is fair and not life-crushing to public workers. Failing to fix this now will be. Those arguing to “find another way” are torturing a way to avoid saying “inflict massive, economy and job killing tax increases” on NJ. Sorry folks. The choices are stark, but someone needs to force us to face reality before the choices devolve into ones that inflict an exponentially larger level of pain – on public workers and taxpayers.

Interestingly there is a glimmer of hope. The sunset of the tax increases proposed by the Senate President might be a signal that he gets it. He has said he included the sunset not because of some fantastical, logic-defying presumption that revenues will magically permit such a mathematics-defying feat. He has actually said he wants the sunset to force us to face the need for reform. That’s a big deal if he means it. So might the recommendations – due by the end of his month – of the bi-partisan group of senators he put together last year to recommend implementing of cost-saving measures with teeth.

That the Governor has not only failed so far to embrace the calls for reform, but tried to twist the tax increase sunset into something irresponsible, is telling, and damning at the same time. His recent announcement that he’s ready to enact some health benefits reforms may be a sign he gets it too. But color me skeptical. The reforms he’s so far supported amount to frittering around the edges. His announcement of yet another task force to “study” health benefits reform is a colossal act of timid redundancy when what we really need is simple acceptance of the facts we already know and a leader gutsy enough to take action.

We must praise leaders who fight for the reforms that we all know deep-down must happen. We must hold those that abdicate their responsibility accountable. This is a critical moment for New Jersey. This is a critical moment for our childrens’ futures – if they are going to be able to remain, and prosper, in this state we love.

Posted: July 28th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Declan O'Scanlon, Monmouth County News, New Jersey, New Jersey State Budget, Opinion, Pensions | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

7 Comments on “O’Scanlon: “This is a crtical moment for our children’s future””

  1. Real Reform said at 2:35 am on July 29th, 2018:

    Means ENDING the pension system completely, let firefighters and police remain, but we need to do away with all other pensions!

    This is the ONLY option left!

  2. Why just leave FF and Police? said at 8:23 am on July 29th, 2018:

    Either way I suspect new hires in all levels of public service will go into a 401k type retirement fund within the next ten years.

  3. How about said at 9:24 am on July 29th, 2018:

    an honest and real audit and statistical analysis of every single social program, (especially long term ones, which just keep getting re- funded every budget year,) as to whether they are duplicative, not working, or, (as in MANY cases,) a total WASTE??… How about routing out those who abuse the system/ do not really deserve or qualify?..How about: you need to be a citizen before you get on the programs?.. How much could that save?.. How about ending the double and triple- dippers, many of whom are current and formal elected officials and judges? – Hey, if a person works hard at their one job for 25- plus years, why should they not get their one pension that they earned?.. How about really ending these huge “unused sick time,” “boat- checks?”.. How about instilling more of the work ethic, rather than dependence, in many politicians’ promise- laden campaigns of more free stuff?

    Until and unless all officials of both parties step outside of their own bloviating, self- serving, re- election mentalities, our budgets will continue to swell, and the people who pay for it all will continue to finally give up and exit states, like this one!

  4. Mike Harmon said at 2:52 pm on July 30th, 2018:

    Accept the Math? Goldman’s Murphy certainly understands the math. Using NJ citizens and taxpayers money to fund his 2020 or 2024 political ambitions. Buying his ticket into the most progressive left agenda with other people’s money. Was there ever any doubt that NJ was just a stepping stone? As NJ teeters between “technical and actual insolvency”, only one man can stop this madness. Senator Sweeney. He doesn’t need math, he just needs to understand Murphy’s ambitions…

  5. Beware, Senator, said at 9:02 pm on July 30th, 2018:

    you are beginning to sound like the two clowns in charge of our likely- depleting US GOP Congressional “majority:” I. E., McConnell and Ryan, you, as the “ loyal opposition,” get to be personally re- elected in your fairly safe districts, (but have no real clout,as to the agenda we get forced on us, usually resulting in much more being taken from us in taxes, by maniacal Dems, who only spend other peoples’ money to stay where they are, ) but never really provide the difference in governing, which intelligent, voting taxpayers crave. You get to bitch, and dutifully vote “no,” with virtually no chance to fix anything we need fixed! Some of us are on to you, and many other RINO’s- who really ought to suck it up, admit that our President did great, and is still doing great against ridiculous odds/ constant attacks, and deserves support, and do what Dems do,when they are ( more often) in a majority: shove their agenda right through in lock-step, instead of settling for fighting your leader, and staying in “comfortable, safe, minority status!” Keeping your jobs, without doing the hard stuff that needs doing. Keep the standard pat, un-do able ideas coming, and maybe someday, NJ will turn around. May we all live long enough to see that unlikely miracle occur!

  6. @Beware Senator said at 6:37 pm on July 31st, 2018:

    That was without a doubt the emptiest paragraph I have ever read on this site, which was no small feat. Bravo.

  7. Thanks! said at 7:12 am on August 1st, 2018:

    If you don’t get the real ways of those in the swamp in Trenton and DC, can’y help ya. One could count on one hand the number of legislators who actually get beyond their election platitudes and finally get something done.