But he does leave out some important details.
Kudos to the Bergen Record’s Charlie Stiles for identifying the main reason why New Jersey doesn’t have the money to fix its water pipes (and other infrastructure needs): its worst-in-the-nation debt load. Money that is used to pay for massive unfunded pension liabilities cannot be used to ensure that our kids aren’t being poisoned by lead.
But Stiles blames all the pension underfunding on the pols. This is not accurate. These pols were responding to the realities of New Jersey’s special-interest-dominated political system.
As SPCNJ research shows, the FACTS are that the most powerful of these special interests, the NJEA, used its unmatched political clout to influence the pols to structure the broken pension system we have today. The NJEA ensured that pension obligations were the responsibility of the state and then worked at the state level to enhance benefits and participated in schemes that undermined the pension system. Stiles mentions Senator DiFrancesco’s pension raid but not that the NJEA used its control over the legislature to push for it. He mentions the Governor Whitman’s disastrous pension obligation bonds (POB) but not that the NJEA put its enormous political weight behind them. All during the time that teachers’ pensions were being short-changed as Stiles describes, the NJEA never used its political muscle to oust the pols who were underfunding the pensions – although it did use its muscle to oust pols for other reasons. In fact, as part of the POB deal, the NJEA even dropped a lawsuit that demanded pension funding.
So, Mr. Stiles, please do not overlook why these pols did what they did. Yes, Newark kids are being screwed by our overly indebted state, but please understand why New Jersey got into this position: our special-interest-dominated political system.
Read Stiles’ op-ed in the Bergen Record here.