The staff of New Jersey governor Chris Christie would like a moment of your time, to address that New York Times article that contended that the governor gets his facts wrong.
The Facts Behind Governor Christie’s Facts
GOVERNOR CHRISTIE ON PUBLIC-SECTOR UNIONS AND COLLECTIVE BARGAINING:
CLAIM: Governor Christie States that New Jersey’s Public Sector Unions Routinely Pressure the State Legislature to Give Them What They Want. “They go around the collective bargaining when they don’t get what they want, everything that they want, and they go to the Legislature to do it, and use their political power and their money to be able to buy the Legislature to get what they want — and governors, too, in the past.” (Richard Perez-Pena, “Scrutinizing a Governor’s Statements,” NY Times, 3/10/2011)
FACT: Governor Christie Has Routinely Said That Reforming the Pension and Benefit System Needs to Happen Legislatively, as Enhancements Have Been Enacted Legislatively. “Christie defended the move to use legislation for the reforms, noting that’s how the unions were able to secure a 9 percent pension increase. “If we’re giving them something, it’s OK to go to the Legislature,” Christie said. “If we’re taking something back, it’s a violation of the sacrosanct of collective bargaining?’” (Beth DeFalco, “NJ Gov. Christie: ‘I love collective bargaining,’” Associated Press, 3/3/2011)
GOVERNOR CHRISTIE ON NON-ADVERSARIAL COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AND UNION CONTRACTS:
CLAIM: The Governor is Making an Overstatement By Claiming the Last Round of Negotiations Were Non-Adversarial. “The governor often says the last round of contract talks, under his Democratic predecessor, Jon S. Corzine, was not adversarial, and says Mr. Corzine promised state workers a good deal. The talks, in 2006 and 2007, were heated.” (Richard Perez-Pena, “Scrutinizing a Governor’s Statements,” NY Times, 3/10/2011)
FACT: Governor Corzine Publicly Rallied With State Workers On the Steps of the State House, Vowing to Fight for Them. “Addressing a lunchtime rally of more than 6,000 state workers in front of the State House Annex on Monday, Mr. Corzine pumped his fists and vowed to keep his pledge to increase the pension contributions. ‘’I will fight for you,’’ Governor Corzine told the crowd, made up largely of members of several municipal unions.” (Richard G. Jones, “Corzine Gives In on Part of Tax Plan in Trade-Off for His Embattled Budget,” NY Times, 6/20/2006)
“In 2006 in New Jersey, this led to the preposterous episode in which Governor Jon Corzine addressed a Trenton rally of thousands of public workers and shouted, “We will fight for a fair contract.’” (Editorial, “A Union Education,” Wall Street Journal, 3/1/2011)
Governor Christie Has Said This Considering That the Public Sector Unions Give the Impression that Pension and Benefit Reform Should Take Place at the Negotiation Table. “The unions argue that historically only the pension benefits have been changed via legislation and that Sweeney’s bill, or any similar proposal, would strip them of bargaining rights they have previously been entitled to. “The main point is that it’s a back door way of limiting the collective bargaining process,” said labor attorney Steven Cohen, who cosigned the letter. “It’s something that the Legislature and previous governors have done very, very sparingly because they understand that the best solution is a negotiated solution.’” (Ginger Gibson, “Labor attorneys urge Legislature to abandon plan to increase N.J. employees’ contributions to health benefits,” Star-Ledger, 3/7/2011)
“We want decision makers in Trenton to understand that we have a well-established legal right to negotiate over health benefits,” said Bob Masters, political director for the Communication Workers of America, which represents the majority of the state’s unionized employees.” (Ginger Gibson, “Labor attorneys urge Legislature to abandon plan to increase N.J. employees’ contributions to health benefits,” Star-Ledger, 3/7/2011)
In the Past, Public Sector Unions Have Received Pension Enhancements 19 Times Legislatively.
6/28/2007 – Changes PERS, TPAF and DCRP contribution rates and new employees’ compensation base and retirement age; implements changes to the SHBP and the transfer of education employees to School Employees’ Health Benefits Program.
5/7/2007 – Implements certain recommendations contained in the December 1, 2006 report of the Joint Legislative Committee on Public Employee Benefits Reform.
7/1/2003 – Phases in local employers’ payments to PERS and PFRS over five years and increases the PFRS special retirement benefit from 70 to 75 percent of final salary upon the pension system attaining a funded level in excess of 104 percent.
1/9/2003 – Provides a State payment of $15,000 annual survivor’s pension when volunteer emergency services worker suffers accidental death on duty.
8/1/2003 – Credits all prior PERS service of county prosecutors in Prosecutors Part at no additional cost.
5/30/2002 – Provides an early retirement incentive program for certain State employees who retire between April 1, 2002 and July 1, 2002.
4/16/2001 – Increases the special retirement pension from 60 to 65 percent of final salary for certain retired public safety officer members of PERS, CPFPF and PFRS.
5/8/2001 – Provides a pension benefit to survivors of certain PFRS members dying prior to the effective date of Chapter 428, P.L. 1999 (January 1, 1998).
6/28/2001 – Expands certain veterans’ benefits to certain participants in the Lebanon Crisis of 1958.
6/28/2001 – Extends TPAF, PERS and PFRS veteran’s status to certain participants in peace-keeping operations in Somalia and Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
10/1/2001 – Provides a 9.09 percent increase to TPAF and PERS retirement benefits for active members and retirees; revises calculation of assets and establishes benefit enhancement fund. Reduces TPAF member contribution rate to 3%.
8/8/2001 – Provides full PFRS credit at State cost for certain members who transferred from PERS to PFRS under Chapter 247, P.L. 1993.
12/6/2001 – Establishes the Workers Compensation Judges Part in PERS.
1/3/2002 – Provides a pension benefit to survivors of certain PFRS members dying prior to the effective date of Chapter 428, P.L. 1999 (January 1, 1995).
1/6/2002 – Changes compensation base of SPRS accidental death benefit pension for surviving spouses and children.
1/6/2002 – Provides a 9 percent increase to TPAF and PERS disability and veterans retirement benefits for active and retired employees.
1/7/2002 – Creates Prosecutors Part with other benefits in PERS.
1/18/2000 – Provides a reduction in the employee contribution rate for State and local PERS members.
1/18/2000 – Enhances retirement benefits for PFRS members.
In the Past, Public Sector Unions Have Fought for Health Benefits to be Set by Law — Not Negotiation. Public Sector Unions in New Jersey Lobbied Successfully for Legislation to Set Health Benefit Levels in Statute, Making Them Permanent Fixtures No Longer Subject to Negotiation.
A 2007 law fought for by the unions set co-pays, reimbursement rates and covered services and limited the ability of the State Health Benefits Commission to enter into a contract unless those requirements were met. Further, other changes to health benefits were also achieved by legislation rather than negotiation, including a multitude of coverage mandates and a requirement that dependents be covered until age 30.
4/12/2008 – Requires orthotic or prosthetic appliance coverage (P.L.2007, c.245)
1/13/2008 – Requires coverage of hearings aids for a person age 15 or younger (P.L.2008, c.126)
6/28/2007 – Makes numerous changes and imposes mandates on public employee health coverage, including (P.L.2007, c.103):Implements changes to the SHBP and the transfer of education employees to School Employees’ Health Benefits Program
6/28/2007 – Places dozens of mandates on the level and number of services covered, including allergy testing and related diagnostic/therapy services, durable medical equipment, a semi-private room during inpatient care, and foot orthotics. (P.L.2007, c.103)
• Establishes $10 co-pay for doctor office visit in NJDirect 10
• Provides a maximum out-of-pocket of $400 per individual and $1,000 per family for in-network services in NJDirect 10
• Establishes out-of-network deductible of $100 per individual and $250 per family for each calendar year in NJDirect 10
• Provides reimbursement for out-of-network charges at the rate of 80% of reasonable and customary charges in NJDirect 10
• Provides that the out-of-pocket maximum shall not exceed $2,000 per individual and $5,000 per family for each calendar year in NJDirect 10
• Establishes a $15 co-pay for doctor’s office visits in NJDirect 15
• Provides that reimbursement for out-of-network charges at the rate of 70% of reasonable and customary charges in NJ Direct 15
5/7/2007 – Implements certain recommendations contained in the December 1, 2006 report of the Joint Legislative Committee on Public Employee Benefits Reform. (P.L. 2007, c. 92)
5/12/2006 – Requires dependent coverage to age 30 (P.L.2005, c.375)
GOVERNOR CHRISTIE ON COLLECTIVE BARGAINING RIGHTS ACROSS THE COUNTRY:
CLAIM: The Governor Overstates the Number of States that Do Not Have Collective Bargaining Rights. “There are dozens of states in this country that don’t have collective bargaining for public workers at all.” Such states are ‘all over the country.’” (Richard Perez-Pena, “Scrutinizing a Governor’s Statements,” NY Times, 3/10/2011)
FACT: It Has Been Reported That Only 26 States Have Laws Granting Collective Bargaining Rights to Most Public Workers.
“Only 26 states have laws like Wisconsin’s granting collective bargaining rights to most public workers. And 12 states have no public-sector collective bargaining law. In these states, state workers have no legal right to collectively bargain. Local governments can choose whether to grant bargaining rights. (In a few states, including Virginia, local governments are actually barred from engaging in collective bargaining.) Another 12 states have limited collective bargaining laws that apply only to certain classes of workers, such as state employees or teachers.” (Josh Barro, “Obama playing both sides of collective bargaining issue,” San Francisco Examiner, 2/23/2011)
“Twelve states have laws granting collective bargaining rights only to certain groups of workers, such as teachers or firefighters, according to a 2002 U.S. GAO report. Twelve others have no laws guaranteeing collective bargaining rights for any public workers. But those numbers may rise soon. Fifteen states have proposed legislation this session that would restrict collective bargaining.” (“Many States Already Restrict Collective Bargaining,” StateNet, 3/8/2011)
CLAIM: The Unions Made Concessions in Negotiating Their Contract in 2007. “. . . and the unions made several concessions, which included a higher retirement age, an increase in employee pension contributions, and workers’ contributions toward health insurance.” (Richard Perez-Pena, “Scrutinizing a Governor’s Statements,” NY Times, 3/10/2011)
FACT: The Contract was Renegotiated in 2009 and Set up the Unions to Receive a Seven Percent Pay Increase in One Year.
“The agreement between Corzine and the unions called for 10 unpaid furlough days while deferring a wage increase in exchange for a no-layoff pledge. It means two 3.5 percent wage increases are scheduled to take effect in the upcoming budget year, one in July and one in January. Layoffs or furloughs before January would trigger the January raise right away.” (Claire Heininger, “N.J. Gov. Chris Christie says he’s stuck with bill for state worker 7 percent pay hike,” Star Ledger, 3/9/2010)
Governor Christie Believes in Tough, Adversarial Collective Bargaining. “So collective bargaining in the Corzine years is not done at a rectangular table, the people sitting across from each other and bargaining. It was done at a round table, holding hands, singing kumbaya and deciding how much of your money they were going to take. And if you wonder how much of your money they were going to take, just remember this: State workers in this year’s budget under a contract negotiated by the Corzine Administration, got a 7% salary increase this year, in a time when inflation is at zero. A 7% salary increase. Now if you call that tough, adversarial, collective bargaining on behalf of the people of New Jersey who pay the bills, I don’t want you anywhere near the collective bargaining that’s going to start in a couple of weeks.” (Hillsborough Town Hall Transcript, 3/9/2011)
“My lawyers have now told me that I am bound by that deal,” the governor said after meeting local officials in Haddon Heights. “If I could stop it, I would, except the previous governor tied my hands. I cannot lay off one state worker, I cannot furlough a state worker until January of 2011. That was a great election-year deal he made for us. It is an exquisite pair of handcuffs he put on his successor, but I guess he didn’t think he was going to have a successor.” (Claire Heininger, “N.J. Gov. Chris Christie says he’s stuck with bill for state worker 7 percent pay hike,” Star Ledger, 3/9/2010)
GOVERNOR CHRISTIE ON OFFSETTING EDUCATION AID CUTS:
CLAIM: Governor Christie’s Efforts to Offset Education Aid Cuts Would Not Fill Budget Gaps. “The State Office of Legislative Services and school administrators around New Jersey said the concessions would not make up the entire budget gap, and in the few dozen districts where employees agreed to concessions, there were still cuts.” (Richard Perez-Pena, “Scrutinizing a Governor’s Statements,” NY Times, 3/10/2011)
FACT: Governor Christie Repeatedly Called for Teachers and Administrators to Take a One Year Salary Freeze and Contribute 1.5% of Their Pay to Health Benefits to Help Offset Education Aid Cuts
MARTHA MACCALLUM: What is your response to them when they say look you’re cutting lunch aid, art teachers, all kinds of language programs? GOVERNOR CHRISTIE: My response is to them is that none of that would have to be done if the teachers union in New Jersey would be willing to take a one year pay freeze for this year and pay 1.5% of their salary for the full-time medical benefits they get, medical, dental and vision. That would save $800 million, and wipe out all but $20 million of our cuts and there would be no layoffs, no program cuts and, all of the stuff is about the unions greed rather than putting the kids first. (Governor Chris Christie with Martha MacCallum on Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, 4/13/2010)
Until Last Year, Teachers Paid Nothing for Their Health Care Coverage. “In one well-worn routine, for instance, the governor reminds his audiences that, until he passed a recent law that changed the system, most teachers in the state didn’t pay a dime for their health care coverage, the cost of which was borne by taxpayers.” (Matt Bai, “How Chris Christie Did His Homework,” New York Times Magazine, 2/24/2011)
Administration Analysis Shows That if Teachers Would Take These Concessions, There Would be a Statewide Savings of Nearly $800 Million. “These two provisions by themselves would have the power, across the State of New Jersey, to save school districts between $750 million and $800 million.” (Governor’s Request to Forego Salary Increment, 3/23/2010)
GOVERNOR CHRISTIE ON TEACHERS AND HEALTH CARE COVERAGE:
CLAIM: Governor Christie Has Said That Teachers Pay Nothing for Their Health Care Benefits. “It was certainly true a year ago that most teachers did not pay part of their insurance premiums — though virtually all had co-payments and deductibles — but it is not clear whether it remains true.” (Richard Perez-Pena, “Christie’s Talk Is Blunt, but Not Always Straight,” NY Times, 3/10/2011)
FACT: Until Last Year, Teachers Paid Nothing for Their Health Care Coverage. “In one well-worn routine, for instance, the governor reminds his audiences that, until he passed a recent law that changed the system, most teachers in the state didn’t pay a dime for their health care coverage, the cost of which was borne by taxpayers.” (Matt Bai, “How Chris Christie Did His Homework,” New York Times Magazine, 2/24/2011)
Even the NY Times Indicated That at Present Over 50% of Teachers Are Still Not Paying For Health Benefits. “The New Jersey School Boards Association said that in this school year, 238 of the state’s 591 districts — including five of the six largest — require employees to contribute to coverage. Those districts employ about 44 percent of the state’s public school teachers.” (Richard Perez-Pena, “Scrutinizing a Governor’s Statements,” NY Times, 3/10/2011)
GOVERNOR CHRISTIE ON BALANCING THE BUDGET WITHOUT RAISING TAXES:
CLAIM: Governor Christie States That He Balanced the Budget Without Raising Taxes. “Some overstatements have worked their way in the governor’s routine public comments, like a claim that he balanced the budget last year without raising taxes. . . .” (Richard Perez-Pena, “Christie’s Talk Is Blunt, but Not Always Straight,” NY Times, 3/10/2011)
FACT: There Were No Tax Increases In The FY11 Appropriations Act. “. . . this budget is balanced without broad-based revenue increases because we eliminated programs, cut spending, and created efficiencies.” (Frequently Asked Questions on the FY 2011 Budget Solutions)
“Says Christie: “The bill has come due.” Which is why his gap-closing relies almost entirely on spending cuts — no borrowing, fiscal gimmickry or tax hikes . . .” (Editorial, “A Tale Of Two States,” New York Post, 3/18/2010)
“It’s a budget in which Gov. Chris Christie is doing what he said he would do — slashing spending while not raising taxes . . .” (Editorial, “A budget that offers nothing to like — except an agreement,” Home News Tribune, 6/29/2010)
“Christie would seem to get most of what he wanted — a budget that truly begins to scale back the size of our state government and does not rely on a bevy of tax increases.” (Editorial, “Applaud leaders for compromising,” Courier-Post, 6/29/2010)
To the Times’s credit, they did spell the governor’s name right.