New Jersey’s Favorite Union Plutocrat (DAVID NEESE COLUMN) – Trentonian

Governor Phil Murphy isn’t bragging about it, mind you. But the odd fact is that unionized state employees receive a somewhat smaller share of the big paychecks – $ 100,000 and more – than they did before he took office.

This fact might actually resonate with voters if it were widely known. But maybe not so much with the civil service unions who enthusiastically endorsed Murphy’s re-election.

The unions are gaga over Murphy. But is the multimillionaire, former investment banker, perhaps a little less gaga about them?

A capitalist financier and unions, at first glance, would seem to make strange political companions. The obscure state wage statistics make you wonder all the more about this alliance of odd couples.

Under Murphy, state paychecks of $ 100,000 and over shifted somewhat in the direction of non-union employees. Wow, what is it?

It’s a development a Republican might be more inclined to hail than a Democrat – especially a “progressive” Democrat like Murphy.

Meanwhile, mind you, no one is complaining – let alone the union leaders themselves – that Murphy is courting but fucking the unions. The governor’s union influence seems unassailable.

Unions are on the verge of securing votes for Murphy, the preeminent plutocrat, the child of a humble family, who has made his way to the top ranks of what unions tend to see as survival of the fittest, the dog eater. canine capitalism.

As the boss of the state workforce, the governor nominally leads the state leadership team in negotiations with 15 different unions representing state employees.

Murphy is a former diplomat (President Obama’s ambassador to Germany) and former Wall Street oligarch. He amassed a fortune with Goldman Sachs, the giant international investment and financial services bank.

Writer Matt Taibbi in a famous Rolling Stone article once described Goldman Sachs as a “giant vampire squid blocking its blood funnel in anything that smells of money.” Murphy headed Goldman Sachs’ Hong Kong office and served on the powerful board of the investment bank.

Despite his corporate pedigree, he has enjoyed and continues to enjoy the strong support of most public sector employee unions.

Until Murphy’s arrival, however, state government unions enjoyed a growing share of paychecks of $ 100,000 and over. Especially the largest state union, the Communication Workers of America (CWA). But this trend seems to be ending quietly with Murphy. The portion of the state’s workforce paid $ 100,000 or more continues to increase – from 12 percent under Governor Chris Christie to 14 percent under Murphy. And unionized state employees still receive most paychecks of $ 100,000 or more. But their share is declining under Murphy.

Under Christie, nearly 64% of annual salaries of $ 100,000 or more went to union members in 2015. Under Murphy, paychecks over $ 100,000 for members of the state employees union slipped to 56% of the total at that pay level, according to the NJ Civil Service Commission. data for 2019, the latest made public.

In other words, under Murphy, non-union government employees saw their top-tier salary intake drop to 44% of the $ 100,000 and over category, compared to 36% under Christie.

Measured by the numbers, the weight of state government unions also slipped under Murphy. This happened as the state government’s total wage bill has been slowly but steadily reduced, mainly by failing to fill positions left vacant by retirements or by privatizing those jobs.

From 2015 to 2019, the number of unionized employees on the Trenton-based central payroll increased from 54,375 to 48,721, or from around 78% of the workforce to around 72%, according to data from the Civil Service Commission. (In contrast, only 16% of the total New Jersey workforce, including the private sector, is unionized.)

The CWA grew from about 30,000 paying state government members under Christie to about 27,000 under Murphy. (The lean but still beefy CWA endorsed Murphy against Republican challenger Jack
Ciattarelli.)

Government employees have not suffered any brutal financial setbacks like many in the private sector. But the average salaries of state employees, $ 74,314 under Christie in 2016, increased only slightly to $ 74,389 under Murphy in 2019. And median median state government salaries, $ 72,953 under Christie, actually slipped to $ 72,746 under Murphy.

Meanwhile, state employees have been forced to take larger contributions from their stagnant paychecks to help support their fiscally shaky and underfunded pension plans. However, even these stagnant salary figures compare favorably with the median US salary of $ 44,535 or the median US household income of $ 67,521 for 2020.

The state government salary figures reflect a high proportion of Indian chiefs in the state bureaucracy. The State Civil Service Commission classifies more than half of the state government payroll as “civil servants / administrators” and “professionals”. Only 12% are listed as “office workers”.

In addition to union coverage, most state employees – around eight in 10 – get an extra layer of protection through the civil service classification.

Taxpayers may not have noticed, given the steady increase in state budgets year after year, but the state’s central wage bill has declined since peaking at 77,375. under Acting Governor Donald DiFrancesco, a moderate Republican, in 2001. The numbers fell to 68,173 under Governor Chris Christie in 2016 and to 67,709 under Governor Murphy in 2019.

These central payroll figures, however, do not include the number of substantial employees out of other state payrolls. These other payrolls include some 21,000 employees of Rutgers and other state colleges; 11,000 employees at NJ Transit and 2,000 employees at the NJ Turnpike Authority.

These and various other public funds provide paychecks to a total of 56,700 employees, outside of central payroll. (The largest private sector employers in New Jersey, on the other hand, have salaries totaling 34,000 ShopRite, 17,000 Walmart, 17,000 Verizon, 14,000 Merc, and 13,500 Johnson & Johnson.)

The state’s payroll total of 123,874 is also not the full measure of New Jersey’s heavily unionized, politically active, and public employment workforce.

Subsidized by state taxes, New Jersey’s property tax-funded public school payrolls include about 130,000 employees, largely represented by the powerful NJ Education Association, the state branch of National Education.
Association, which also supported Murphy.

Also augmented by state taxes, municipal and county governments funded by property taxes constitute an additional force of heavily unionized public employees, totaling 103,000 additional public employees. In addition, there are approximately 25,000 employees in New Jersey on federal payrolls.

If all of these public employees lived in one New Jersey township, they would be by far the largest city in the state, far surpassing places like St. Louis, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh.

Despite the slight downward trend in the number of state employees, the overall payroll for New Jersey public servants highlights a lingering problem, defying Murphy’s efforts to address it: local and school.

New Jersey struggles with a phenomenal “net pension liability” of $ 141.8 billion, with a low funding ratio of just 39.7%, according to a Pew Research Foundation study based on 2019 data. . It is the second worst in the country, just behind the tax-troubled Illinois, with bankruptcy falling on it, mired by Chicago’s colossal liabilities in the public sector.

The tax consequences of New Jersey’s public employment figures are surely well known to Governor Murphy above all. Under New Jersey state income tax, with a maximum marginal rate of 10.75%, the former
The Wall Street banker himself pays millions in taxes every year, as his statements show. (Only 2.4% of New Jersey taxpayers have annual taxable income greater than $ 500,000, but they pay almost 42% of total state income tax.)

Yet critics would likely point out that the governor’s wealth is of such magnitude that after paying his taxes he can still manage to maintain a retirement in Tuscany and donate around $ 1 million to charity. Other prosperous people of lesser wealth cannot so easily pay their tax bills with an indifferent shrug.

Taxes might not exactly ruin them, but they can make at least one annoying difference in their lifestyle, maybe the difference between, say, having a Camry or a Lexis, sending a girl to Temple instead of Vassar or vacation on the Jersey Shore instead of on the French Riviera.

Governor Murphy is certainly right, however, in this regard: If the public payroll figures and their fiscal implications worry you, then – as he keeps repeating in these commercials that Jack Ciattarelli is broadcasting – New Jersey
indeed may not be the state for you.

About Yvonne Lozier

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