Tags: New Jersey

Duneboggle: Chris Christie Literally Creating Malarial Swamps In New Jersey


In a new development in the war at the shore, one of the more widely ridiculed objections to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s dune-building plan — that dunes cause swamping and prevent drainage — turns out to be less wild than dune supporters claim. This is what the area behind Absecon Island’s dunes looked like after last week’s nor’easter flooded a town that already has Christie-style dunes in place:

To the left the dune barrier can be clearly seen; to the right is the boardwalk in Ventnor. In the last decade, Ventnor has built a wall of dunes to the specifications Christie’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have in mind for the entire Jersey Shore.

During last week’s very typical storm, Ventnor experienced heavy flooding. Neighboring Margate, the city that has launched a court battle against the Duneboggle, stayed relatively dry. In both cities, the only flooding came from rising bay waters and faulty rainwater drainage — the same pattern that has held through every recorded storm on Absecon Island including Hurricane Sandy. No flooding at all came over the beaches from the ocean, which is the only avenue of water damage the dunes (or “berms”) in the Corps of Engineers’ Absecon Island Coastal Storm Risk Reduction Project would deal with. The project contains no funding or planning to remediate bayside flooding or improve drainage in flood-prone areas.

“This USACE project is not a back bay or localized flood control or prevention project, it is a hurricane and storm damage reduction project based on ocean wave impacts,” a DEP spokesman told National Review Online after last week’s bayside flooding. “This project would surely be helpful to those residents in Margate or Ventnor or other towns if Sandy struck directly at them from the ocean side as it did in Mantoloking, Brick, and others during Sandy. The flooding shown in your Ventnor photos was bay side flooding, not ocean front flooding.”

Asked to cite a storm that flooded Absecon Island from the ocean rather than the bay, the spokesman replied, “Not engaging in a guessing game with you.”

A Ventnor resident reports that the swampy patch shown above evaporated after a few days, though a part of town further toward Atlantic City still had a large amount of water behind the dunes as of Sunday, and the water was draining away from the ocean.

The Duneboggle raises important concerns about property rights, local governance, and 2016 presidential hopeful Christie’s attitude toward both. However, there are also practical matters of geography and science. New Jersey’s barrier islands are not hard land. They are essentially sandy promontories amid swampland, something non-shore-residents (or “shoobs” as they are called on Absecon Island) and recent arrivals, who experience the place as a care-free paradise, cannot fully appreciate. As recently as the 1970s, Margate was still prone to heavy infestations of mosquitoes and something worse: the greenhead horsefly (Tabanus nigrovittatus), a bloodsucking salt marsh pest whose population has happily diminished as development of the island has continued. But according to a report cited in Alfred Miller Heston’s Absegami: Annals of Eyren Haven and Atlantic City, 1609 to 1904, Absecon Island’s marshes and dunes in their natural state were so pestiferous that Jonathan Pitney’s original plan to establish Atlantic City as a spa resort collapsed:

So numerous were the mosquitoes and greenheads in August, 1858, that horses, covered with blood, laid down in the streets, and cattle waded out into the ocean to escape the torture. Children scratched and squalled from the poisonous stings on limbs and faces. Excursionists begged the conductors to start homeward ahead of schedule time. Men and women converted their handkerchiefs into masks for their faces and a smoking fire was built in front of every house. Before bed-time the windows and doors were opened, and a board placed on top of the chimney, and a dense smoke sent through every chamber, to drive out the mosquitoes. After the house had been thus thoroughly smoked, the board was removed and the people re-entered.

This reporter grew up in Margate but has not lived there for more than 20 years. I have experienced many types of nasty critters around the United States, including roach-sized ants, mouse-sized roaches, cat-sized rats, and even coyotes. I would take all of them over greenheads.

Tags: New Jersey , Chris Christie , Environmentalism

Michael Brown Protesters Have Shut Down More Traffic Than Chris Christie


While New Jersey governor Chris Christie has been apparently cleared by a Democratic investigation of the September 2013 closing of lanes on the George Washington Bridge, America’s white-line nightmare continues.

But, miraculously, the illegal closing of major highways and bridges by protesters from Southern California to New York City has so far failed to generate a rash of news stories about stalled ambulances, stranded seniors, and schoolchildren whose dreams of betterment were dashed by delayed school buses. If it weren’t for Tyree Landrum, the heroic San Diego County commuter widely described as “angry driver” in media reports after he objected to protesters who closed The 5 last week, you’d think the protests over the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner are inconveniencing nobody.#ad#

In fact, Ferguson protesters continue to disrupt the free flow of private traffic. As of this writing, an airport terminal in Minneapolis is reportedly shut down by social-justice advocates, and the Twin Cities saw I-35 shut down yesterday.

In Denver, a driver Wednesday reportedly ran over four bicycle cops escorting a protest down a busy street, critically injuring one of the officers. By Sunday protests will have reached even Pittsfield, Mass., and organizations like Ferguson National Response Network are working to continue the wave.

Shutting down traffic from Washington state to Washington, D.C., falls within the tradition of civil disobedience — stuff for which you can get arrested but to which liberal societies usually allow wide latitude. And the specific form of street closures is evocative of the circumstances of Michael Brown’s death: He was killed by a police officer during a stop related to his walking down the middle of a street in Ferguson, Mo. But the Ferguson protests are undoubtedly disruptive of traffic — far more so than the Bridgegate non-scandal that convulsed much of the media in late 2013.

In fact, while Christie’s ostensible reason for closing lanes on the GWB — for tests of traffic flow under various circumstances — is less than compelling, those closures seem to be on much more solid legal ground than the Ferguson stops, which are overtly extralegal. So where are the mountains of casualties, the outrages to the nation, the offenses against civil order, that must logically be resulting from the Ferguson protests? If closing a couple lanes off a bridge shocks the conscience, why doesn’t shutting down all northbound traffic on the West Coast’s main interstate?

Though MSNBC devoted scores of hours of coverage to Bridgegate when it appeared Christie might have had prior knowledge of the lane closings — including a storied January evening when the Lean Forward network devoted more than five hours of its prime-time broadcast to the scandal — the channel’s coverage has been minimal since a state legislative committee headed by Democrats found no evidence that the potential 2016 presidential hopeful knew about the closings, nor that he masterminded the lethal traffic jam in an act of vengeance against the mayor of Fort Lee.

On Friday’s Andrea Mitchell Reports, guest host Luke Russert wheeled in fellow MSNBC host Steve Kornacki for one minute and 58 seconds of coverage, during which Kornacki called the committee findings “frankly not a great surprise” and suggested Christie could still be guilty of “willful ignorance,” adding that there were “some indications” an investigation by a U.S. Attorney might find that “he could have figured this thing out sooner.” Russert and Kornacki also exchanged knowing laughs about the possibility that Christie might end benefiting by seeming to “take on the liberal media that was out to get him,” a stance they said might please Christie’s “conservative fans.”

“This all just came out,” a courteous MSNBC spokeswoman tells National Review Online when asked about the disparity in coverage. But in fact, Christie’s apparent non-involvement in the scandal has been known since September, when U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman announced that he had “uncovered no evidence indicating that [Christie] either knew in advance or directed the closure of traffic lanes on the span” — an announcement MSNBC’s website reported with the headline “Investigations around Christie administration continue.” MSNBC’s spokeswoman says the network will be giving substantial coverage to the end of Bridgegate in Friday’s prime-time broadcast. “This news cycle you’re talking about is from today,” she says. “We plan on covering it.”

Meanwhile the nightmare on our highways goes on, and Christie is still notably casual about the rights and property of New Jerseyans. It’s the kind of stuff that might be considered an outrage, if property, private commerce, or the right to move about a free nation unobstructed were what media phonies were actually concerned about.

— Tim Cavanaugh is news editor of National Review Online. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Tags: Chris Christie , MSNBC , Roads and Bridges , New Jersey , Ferguson Missouri , protests

War at the Shore: Margate 1, Chris Christie 1/2


The Absecon Island town of Margate won an extension Thursday of its restraining order against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s environmental apparatus. A U.S. district judge in Camden also suggested from the bench that Christie should give up efforts at summary seizure of the town’s beaches for his Duneboggle plan. The extension to December 17 makes it less likely that the state will meet its goal of completing contracts and digging up the beaches by January.

Although Christie’s scheme to build a statelong “wall” of dunes along the discontinuous Jersey shore is being challenged up and down the coast, Margate is to date the only municipality that has challenged the project, spurred by a widely popular 2013 ballot measure and a subsequent referendum in November authorizing the city to take the dunebuilders to court.#ad#

The town of about 8,400 year-round residents located about two miles south of Atlantic City argues that artificial dunes would ruin its beaches and that a citywide system of bulkheads has prevented catastrophic oceanside damage in all recorded storms, including 2012’s Sandy. Absecon Island has historically been more vulnerable to flooding from its landward bay — a vulnerability made especially clear during Sandy — yet Christie’s remediation plan (which is being imposed along the length of the Jersey Shore, a region that includes both the mainland beaches of the northern coast and the network of barrier islands and marshy bays down south) includes no efforts to beef up bayside protection.

According to observers in the court Thursday, United States district judge Renee Marie Bumb, in addition to extending the restraining order, suggested that Christie’s Department of Environmental Protection would be better off pursuing its efforts to seize Margate’s beaches through standard eminent-domain takings with compensation. Christie has been relying on a series of emergency orders aimed at “recalcitrant” property owners, which have led the DEP to pursue a novel legal theory that it can take control of the property through easements rather than condemnation and seizure, and that it can also seize the land prior to determining and paying fair market value to its owners.

As National Review Online reported in November, the flat town is fighting an uphill battle, but Margate appears to have been on solid legal ground in its Thursday court appearance. The defendants filed a 52-page response shortly before the scheduled hearing. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Amy S. Rosenberg, the state attorney general’s office then requested special permission from the court, arguing that any further delay would interfere with the state’s efforts to “properly protect its citizens from future catastrophes.”

The Army Corps’ schedule for the project includes a December 31 deadline for bids, making it unlikely that the state can begin digging up beaches and building dunes by its hoped-for January start date.

The legal filing by the Corps of Engineers and DEP was not available at publication time. In late November the city of Margate filed a 26-page petition, supported by several hundred pages of attachments. 

In a statement provided to National Review Online, the city of Margate’s law firm welcomed the decision.

“This morning, Judge Bumb approved an interim resolution of our litigation to stop the construction of dunes on the beaches of Margate,” attorneys for Philadelphia-based Dilworth Paxson LLP wrote. “We are very pleased with this result because it accomplishes our two objectives. First, the DEP and Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) were strongly encouraged by the Judge to engage in good faith negotiations with the City of Margate over the nature and timing of the beach protection project. Second, there will be no contract awarded for construction of the dunes and no construction activity of any nature on our beaches while our negotiations proceed in the next few weeks.”

This reporter was born and raised in Margate.

Update: The Department of Environmental Protection, the Corps of Engineers and Gov. Christie’s office did not respond to requests for comment before and after publication. The defendants’ brief in the case is now available:

— Tim Cavanaugh is news editor of National Review Online. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Tags: New Jersey , Chris Christie , Environmentalism , Property Rights , Eminent Domain

No 50-State Strategy for the Democratic Governors Association!


This morning, three pollsters issued their final polls in New Jersey’s governor’s race. Monmouth has Republican incumbent Chris Christie up by 20, Quinnipiac has Christie up by 28, and Rutgers-Eagleton has Christie up by 36.

Back in February, the Democratic Governors Association was talking a good game:

The newly installed chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, said he’s confident her message and story will resonate with New Jersey voters — and he’s willing to devote the resources to prove it. Even at this early stage, it’s Buono’s smiling face that graces the group’s home page.

By August, Democrats were singing a different tune:

While acknowledging the “challenging” nature of the race between Buono and Christie, Shumlin cautioned that it is “by no means over.” But the DGA head would not say whether his organization would provide support in the way of television ads. “I’ve been working closely with Barbara, because we want to win. We’re not gonna start spending big money until we see evidence that we’re gonna win. And so we’re continuing to assess that.”

By yesterday, the DGA was admitting they gave up early:

In contrast, the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) has done nothing to help Christie’s opponent. “We expend resources where we think we can make a difference, and we haven’t invested in New Jersey,” said Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, chairman of the DGA.

Tags: Chris Christie , Barbara Buono , New Jersey , DGA

Christie’s Big Lead Isn’t Helping the New Jersey GOP


For those of you hoping that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s expected big win in November would help his state party…. the outlook isn’t good:

Even as Republican Gov. Chris Christie holds a big lead over his Democratic opponent, new poll results released today show voters prefer to leave the Legislature under Democratic control. The Rutgers-Eagleton poll of 568 likely voters found that 50 percent wanted Democrats to maintain control of the state Senate and Assembly, while 38 percent said Republicans – who have not had control in a decade—should take over.

That same poll finds public opinion about evenly split on the state legislature, with about a third approving, about a third disapproving, and about a third having no opinion. Democrats hold a 48-32 majority in the Assembly and a 24-16 majority in the Senate.

When the top of the ticket’s opening and closing argument is that he’s “bipartisan,” it doesn’t leave much room to say, “vote for my party over the opposition.”

UPDATE: The Christie camp points out that part of the reason Democrats may be polling so well is that they’re emphasizing their close work with the Republican governor:

Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-Mercer), is running online campaign ads proclaiming his bipartisan cooperation with Christie. “Working together with the governor, we balanced the budget and cut business taxes,” Benson says proudly.

Benson isn’t alone: Sen. Robert Gordon (D-Bergen), one of Christie’s favorite whipping boys, is running virtually the same web ad in the 38th District. The online ads for Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May) proclaim how he worked cooperatively with Christie to keep the Vineland Developmental Center from closing.

Even [state Sen. Linda] Greenstein’s latest web ads stress bipartisanship and public service, and do not mention Christie’s opponent, Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex), at all — even though Greenstein has campaigned alongside Buono more than almost any Democrat.

It’s Chris Christie’s state; everybody else is just running in it.

Tags: Chris Christie , New Jersey

The Hard Realities of Cory Booker’s Reign in Newark


American Commitment Action Fund, a conservative super PAC, is launching a web video that brutally contrasts the campaign boasts of Newark mayor Cory Booker with the ugly realities of life in the city and the way he governs. In short, all glitzy image, few actual results:

The video features quite a bit of Booker criticism from Ras Baraka, a Newark city councilman . . . who is also the son of Amiri Baraka.

If that name sounds familiar, you’re probably remembering Baraka’s post-9/11 controversy:

In September 2002, at the Dodge Poetry Festival in Waterloo, N.J., Amiri Baraka stood up on stage and read his recently published poem on the 9/11 attacks, “Somebody Blew Up America.”

The crowd reacted with stunned silence, and several people booed. A few days later, Gov. Jim McGreevey asked Baraka to resign his post as Poet Laureate of New Jersey. This year, Baraka returned to the festival, and read the poem again.

About half the audience stood to cheer when he was finished, while the other half was either clapping quietly, or sitting with arms crossed, scowling. Baraka hadn’t changed the poem, and the line that outraged so many people in 2002 was still there: “Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed / Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers / To stay home that day / Why did Sharon stay away?”

Who could imagine that 11 years later, his son would be featured in a conservative super PAC’s ad?

Tags: Cory Booker , New Jersey , American Commitment Action Fund , Ras Baraka

The Electorate Christie, and Perhaps an Interim Senator, Will Face


Something to keep in mind as New Jersey governor Chris Christie contemplates the decision of appointing an interim senator:

The state has 5,463,097 registered voters, as of May 7.

That total breaks down into:
2,608,636 unaffiliated voters (47 percent)
1,779,250 Democrats (32.5 percent)
1,070,906 Republicans (19.6 percent)

Christie’s done quite well in this heavily Democratic electorate — “63 percent of those surveyed in a recent Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll saying they approve of the job Christie is doing. That rating ticks slightly higher — 64 percent — among the coveted independents” — and so it’s unlikely he’ll pick anyone who would be seen as antagonistic to the state’s Democrats.

If Robert Costa is hearing from his sources that Christie will appoint a Republican, then it’s probably a safe bet. But Christie’s probably looking for the Republican most acceptable to the state’s Democratic voters.

Tags: Chris Christie , New Jersey

So, Democrats, Should We Limit Campaign Donations or Not?


Remember when the Citizens United court case was the root of all evil? Well, now a Democratic super PAC is suing to allow unlimited donations in their effort to help Democratic candidates for the state legislature:

A Washington DC “super PAC” has sued New Jersey’s campaign finance watchdog agency, saying the state can’t limit how much it can raise from an individual donor.

The Fund for Jobs and Growth filed the complaint against the state Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) in federal district court on Friday.

The group, organized under Section 527 of the IRS code, plans to make independent expenditures on behalf of Democratic state legislative candidates in this year’s election. It argues that under the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC, it’s unconstitutional to limit how much money it can raise from an individual donor.

Last year, President Obama declared that the Citizens United decision was so harmful to society, that “I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn’t revisit it).”

Will he denounce an effort by allies within his own party to eliminate limits on donations to state campaigns?

Tags: Barack Obama , Citizens United , New Jersey

Christie Ahead, Just 58 Percent to 22 Percent


A new poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University finds New Jersey governor Chris Christie clinging to his narrow lead over his Democratic challenger, state senator Barbara Buono, 58 percent to 22 percent.

Among self-described Democrats, Buono leads . . . 40 percent to 36 percent.

Christie is winning among women, 54 percent to 24 percent.

The pollsters summarize:

Although a blue state, a solid majority of Democrats (55%) and independents (61%) approve of the job Christie is doing and even more Republicans (83%) give the governor high marks. Other groups who are not considered likely suspects among his supporters include women (62%), those from union households (52%), and non-whites (56%).

A majority of voters are also pleased with the direction the state is headed. Fifty-seven percent say it’s headed in the right direction and, with the exception of the usual partisan differences, perceptions are largely positive across relevant demographic categories.

With numbers like these, the big question is, just how much money does the Democratic Governors Association want to spend in New Jersey this year? Or more specifically, how much do they have to spend to avoid the appearance that they’re giving up on this race, even though they’re sooner or later going to have to admit that with numbers like these, Buono amounts to a sacrificial lamb?

Tags: Taliban , Chris Christie , DGA , New Jersey , Polling

Chris Christie’s Positive Feedback Loop


As Republicans watch New Jersey governor Chris Christie in the coming year, there are three facets to keep in mind.

1) Christie’s surge in popularity following Hurricane Sandy has not faded and in fact seems to be accelerating; this week Quinnipiac found him at a 74 percent job-approval rating (!) and 68 percent say he deserves reelection. Christie takes 30 to 35 percent of the Democratic vote. He’s already dissuaded Newark mayor Cory Booker from a gubernatorial bid, and he’s probably going to match up against little-known state senator Barbara Buono.

While it’s only January, it’s conceivable that Christie will waltz into reelection having largely neutered the opposition party, on a scale not seen since Bobby Jindal faced no major Democrat opponent in Louisiana in 2011.

2) There is no indication that Republicans in New Jersey have any problem with Christie, despite his recent criticism of other Republicans, embrace of Obama, etc. Quinnipiac found Christie’s approval/disapproval split among New Jersey Republicans was 93 percent to 4 percent, and 70 percent of Garden State GOP voters approve of Christie’s criticism of the House GOP.

3) With the GOP vote locked in, and looking strong among independents and even Democrats, Christie has absolutely no incentive to do anything particularly controversial or conservative in this state in the coming year.

This will infuriate some Republicans outside New Jersey — but criticism from Republicans outside the state will only help him with Democrats and independents inside the state.

Now, the big question will be, if reelected, does Chris Christie use his second term to reestablish himself as a voice of fiscal sanity and limited government spending, making tougher decisions that his new fans might not like? Or does he do the full Charlie Crist/Arlen Specter?

Tags: Chris Christie , New Jersey

New Jersey Senate Rejects Christie Supreme Court Nominee


The New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee has rejected the nomination of Phil Kwon, one of Governor Christie’s nominees to the New Jersey Supreme Court.  The vote was close (7-6) and mostly along party lines, and it appears that questioning and opposition focused on a federal case against his family’s business.  According to the New Jersey Star-Ledger:

[T]he family business — a liquor and wine store — forfeited $160,000 to the federal government to settle civil charges that more than $2 million was deposited in the business’s bank account illegally. Kwon was not accused of wrongdoing and does not work for the family business. On that basis, the governor said yesterday this case “has nothing to do with Phil.”

But if that brush-off is the final answer, then the Senate has grounds to refuse confirmation. Kwon bought a $2.3 million home a few years ago with his wife and mother, both of whom derive their income from this business. He and his wife also own a Manhattan condominium they purchased in 2000 with the help of a $650,000 mortgage. 

Governor Christie held a press conference after the vote and called the hearing a “circus.”

The committee did not consider the nomination of Bruce Harris and apparently did not announce a date for his hearing.  As my JCN colleague Carrie explained earlier, it is Harris’s nomination that has generated the most criticism from conservatives.  

Tags: New Jersey

Christie Limps Along With His 55 Percent Approval Rating


Quinnipiac’s latest survey refutes an argument that few, if any, were making: that adding Chris Christie to a Romney ticket would put New Jersey in the GOP pile.

With Gov. Christopher Christie as his running mate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the GOP front-runner, cuts into President Barack Obama’s lead in New Jersey, but still falls short, trailing 49 – 43 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Without Gov. Christie, Romney trails President Obama 49 – 39 percent, the independent Quinnipiac University poll finds.

New Jersey voters support 56 – 33 percent Christie’s proposed 10 percent tax cut. Support is 83 – 11 percent among Republicans and 54 – 34 percent among independent voters. Democrats are opposed 51 – 38 percent. Support for the tax cut rises with household income.

Voters also say 55 – 31 percent the tax cut is fair to people like them. Democrats say unfair 48 – 38 percent.

“Gov. Christopher Christie says he’d be a terrible vice-president and we may never find out. Putting him on the ticket helps the Republicans a little, but not enough, in New Jersey. If the measure of a vice presidential pick is carrying his or her home state, then Gov. Christie comes up short,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

“But voters continue to give the Gov good marks on how he’s doing his job in Trenton.

New Jersey voters approve 55 – 38 percent of the job Christie is doing as governor, compared to his all-time high of 58 – 38 percent October 12.

New Jersey voters approve 51 – 45 percent of the job Obama is doing, his best score in eight months, and say 51 – 44 percent he deserves four more years in the White House, also his best score so far.

Tags: Barack Obama , Chris Christie , New Jersey

An Upcoming Big Day for Govs. McDonnell and Christie


Over on the home page, a look at what’s at stake in the legislative elections being held in Virginia and New Jersey this year. It goes well with last week’s article about Virginia’s Democrats in the state legislature fleeing when President Obama rolls through their district on his bus tour.

Tags: New Jersey , Virginia

A Democrat Who Can Cut Government Payrolls


I really hope that Cory Booker is as great as he seems. Who would have thought that New Jersey would have a governor as good as Christie, and Newark a mayor as sensible as Booker? These guys need to do some kind of bipartisan seminar on how to govern from the edge of disaster. Call it The Jersey Guys’ Guide to Governing.

Tags: Debt , Deficits , Democrats , New Jersey

Public-Pension Criminals


So now that the state of New Jersey has been charged by the SEC with lying to bond investors about the (desiccated, horrific, probably insolvent) state of its pension funds, the guessing game begins: Who is next? Exchequer readers will not be surprised to learn that Illinois, the place where Barack Obama developed his famous financial acumen, is on the list of potential targets.

When Illinois passed its pension “reform” law a few months ago, it decided it could skip an additional $300 million in pension contributions this year, and many millions more in the future. This, for a pension system that already is less than half funded. The New York Times asked a few actuaries about that decision, and the bean-counters are crying foul:

Paradoxically, even though the state will make smaller contributions, the report forecasts that Illinois will get its pension funds back on track to a respectable 90 percent funding level by 2045. It projects that costs will increase slowly and an economic recovery will make cash available for the state to make the contributions it has failed to do in the past.

Whether that is even possible is contested by some actuaries who note that its family of pension funds is now only 39 percent funded. (If a company let its pension fund dwindle to that level, the federal government would probably step in, but federal officials have no authority to seize state pension funds.)

Some actuaries who have reviewed the state’s plans said that shrinking contributions would make the pension funds shakier, not stronger.

Indeed, one of them, Jeremy Gold, called Illinois’s plan “irresponsible” and said it could drive the pension funds to the brink.

Further, Mr. Gold pointed out that Illinois’s official disclosures said that its pension calculations used an actuarial method known as “projected unit credit,” but that the pension reform report used another method, which had not been approved for disclosure.

“According to Illinois statute, the prescribed contributions are determined under a method that may not be in compliance with the pertinent actuarial standards of practice,” Mr. Gold said.

The Wall Street Journal has more on state pension shenanigans here.

Hey, taxpayer: How’s your retirement fund looking these days? Anything left to put in it after the state-workers’ unions are done with you? Heck, you’re probably the kind of sucker who pays his mortgage with his own money.

Tags: Angst , Debt , Deficits , Despair , Fiscal Armageddon , General Shenanigans , Illinois , New Jersey , Pensions

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