Sunlight Policy Center Report: Do You Really Understand New Jersey’s Pension Crisis?

Sunlight Police Center Release


Everyone, including the NJEA, now agrees we have a crisis.  It’s simply a fact that New Jersey’s pension system is the worst in the nation. That’s why we’ve had four special commissions in the last fifteen years.  And yet the problem just gets worse.


In the Sunlight Policy Center’s fifth report in five weeks, we continue our Spring launch to explain why New Jersey’s pension and benefit system is a looming disaster that truly threatens the future of our state and how we got into this perilous position …


The math is damning: New Jersey taxpayers are on the hook for $190 billion of unfunded liabilities.  Our annual budget is only $38 billion.  Many experts believe that these debts can never be paid off.  In five years, benefit costs are projected to consume an unsustainable 26 percent of the budget.  Full funding of key state programs would not be possible.


In the report, we explain the severity of the looming threat to our state, trace the history of the events that inexorably led to the current crisis, and most importantly show that this crisis did not occur by chance: it is the result of long-term, deliberate and self-serving actions by our most powerful special interest, the NJEA.


The facts are incontrovertible: The NJEA used its enormous political clout to construct the state’s largest public pension fund, the Teachers’ Pension and Annuity Fund (TPAF), so that it was systematically underfunded.  The NJEA then worsened TPAF’s condition by:


  • Consistently pushing for enhanced benefits while depleting the assets that supported them, including a brazen pension raid in 2001.
  • Participating in schemes that persistently underfunded and undermined TPAF.
  • Blocking five separate major reform efforts that might have shored up the system before it was too late.


The result is that TPAF is bleeding assets and extremely vulnerable to an inevitable market downturn.  TPAF could run out of assets within ten years – a fiscal calamity for the state.


…Oh and by the way, the reason the NJEA has not been refuting our reports, and will not refute this one, is that they are based on facts, all sourced and footnoted.  It’s hard to refute the truth. 


It is time we begin educating ourselves on the facts.


It’s time these facts came to light.

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