And We’ve Often Rewound the Clock

A few nights ago, I couldn’t find Topaz anywhere. She didn’t answer when I called from the bottom of the attic steps, she didn’t bound from under a table or behind the couch. I opened all the closed doors and waited for an indignant kitty to give me what-fer, but nothing happened. Finally, I stood in the living room, looking around, calling her name. Suddenly, she was right where I was looking: perched on a pillow, staring at me. Topaz went from Full Kitty Invisible to Regular Kitty Visible right before my eyes and I have no explanation for it. The next morning, Topaz slipped past me unnoticed as I walked in from feeding the outside cats. Later, when Pete opened the kitchen door, Topaz buzzed past him, skidded to a stop and said, “Uh…thanks” on her way to wherever it is Topaz goes.

Just about every day, Chris Christie plumbs new depths of pointless bullying. This one affects me directly.

Pension and health benefit reform will be high on the agenda in Trenton this spring. Christie wants all public employees, state and local, to begin paying 30 percent of their health insurance premiums starting next fiscal year. Currently, public employees are required to pay at least 1.5 percent of their salary toward health benefits.

Christie has warned that if Democratic lawmakers refuse to go along with his proposal, or a similar plan, he would not be able to deliver an additional $190 million in property tax relief to seniors and middle-to-low income residents.

State Sen. Stephen Sweeney, (D-Gloucester), wants to phase in the increases over seven years and apply the rates on a sliding scale based on a employee’s salary.

Under Christie’s plan, a teacher who makes a $66,000 salary would pay about $5,200 a year for health insurance. Under Sweeney’s plan, the same teacher would pay about $3,610.

In general, public employees with 25 years of service can retire and receive medical benefits at no cost, but that would change under both Sweeney’s and Christie’s plan.

Current retirees, including those who retire before any proposal is enacted, would be protected from the changes. However, Christie has suggested he is willing to make some adjustments retroactive, even if it prompts a legal challenge.

Four things about this article:

  • 1. My older co-workers are retiring in droves;
  • 2. The juxtaposition of 30% of premium cost and 1.5% of salary without describing the relationship of those numbers is bullshit;
  • 3. Sweeney’s going to hear from a whole lot of old public service workers about how playing for the other team is not going to help a Democrat get re-elected.
  • 4. I have 24.5 years in the pension system and unless there’s a day every spring where money rains from the sky I will never make $66,000/year. Probably.
  • Waving around a number like $66,000 makes it sound like every first year teacher’s aide might make that, which is ridiculous and inflammatory. In a just world, teachers, fire fighters, mail carriers, EMTs, nurses, sanitation workers, home health care workers and childcare providers would be paid what their services are worth to society, instead of the least society can get away with. Jacking retirees for their lunch money ought to bring us shame, but no. A whole lot of people just like me may be wondering if we’re going to die at our desks, if we still have jobs.

    Lately, I can’t turn on the radio without Cheap Trick warbling Surrender. But we can’t.


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