Assemblyman Candidate Howard Kleinhendler: Pension Reform May Hurt, But We Have No Choice

howard kleinhendlerBy Democratic Assemblyman Howard Kleinhendler for TLS: People don’t like to pay for things they think they’re supposed to get for free. So, it’s not surprising that New Jersey’s public workers are up in arms against the pension reform bill that has passed both houses of the Democratic controlled legislature. The bill raises the amounts public workers have to pay for their health coverage, about 1% a year of their salary for the next few years, and limits cost of living increases for pensions to police, teachers and firefighters. The savings from the plan is projected at $120 billion. On the flip side, New Jersey must now fund the pension systems to which it has routinely withheld required annual contributions.

While surely many of our beloved teachers and police are up in arms, on balance, the reforms are fair and I support them. Moreover, it is important for all to take note, that it is a Democratic-controlled legislature that is enacting these reforms, which puts to rest the claims of right-wing zealots that the unions own the Democratic party. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Sure, the unions legitimately argue that a deal is a deal, and it is both unfair and un-American to re-write a labor contract after thousands of employees have worked decades looking forward to a secure retirement. But the answer to this argument is sad: the State is broke. If New Jersey were a business, it would file for bankruptcy, throw out all prior labor contracts and start from scratch. It would then emerge far more fiscally sound. We need look no further than the airline or auto industries, whose bankruptcies have produced far more competitive and profitable companies. But the State is not permitted to go bankrupt. Without cutting its pension obligations, more State funding will be withheld from essential services like education and health care. Those cuts in turn trickle down to municipalities, many of whom simply can’t pay their bills. The result is ever-increasing property taxes and reduced health benefits. In short, the pensioners complaining about the current pension reforms may not be smiling down the road if instead of shouldering additional pension costs they find themselves paying higher property taxes and more for their health care needs.

While the pension reform passed today is a good thing for New Jersey, more must be done. There are still too many people taking two or three pensions, the so-called “double-dippers.” And, there are those drawing large disability payments when they are perfectly capable of working full time. This waste and cronyism must be eliminated, not only to cut unnecessary expenses, but to eliminate the perception that people are “gaming” the system to the detriment of others. If unions can learn one thing from the current pension reform, it’s that they have to hire a new public relations team to improve their image. While their mandate is to help the middle working class, a majority of New Jerseyans don’t perceive their role that way. Unions have to spend more time explaining how they help people earn a decent wage under honorable working conditions, and less time shouting at and disparaging those who are trying to find sensible solutions to New Jersey’s fiscal problems.

Finally, a word of caution; cutting expenses alone is not going to lift New Jersey out of the financial crisis it is going through. As every businessman knows, you need to invest to make money. New Jersey must aggressively pursue businesses, both domestic and foreign, to invest in New Jersey. We have a wonderful, educated workforce, we’re close to the major metropolitan hubs of New York and Philadelphia and we have some of the best beaches in the world. Now is the time to “sell” New Jersey to the world so our unemployment rate can come down and our businesses can start making some money. We also need to improve our bridges and tunnels and develop and expand our tired rail lines so we can rely less on $4 a gallon gas to move around. These initiatives will generate hundreds of thousands of sorely needed jobs that will fuel our recovery.

In short, let’s not break out the champagne yet. We have a lot more work to do.

This content, and any other content on TLS, may not be republished or reproduced without prior permission from TLS. Copying or reproducing our content is both against the law and against Halacha. To inquire about using our content, including videos or photos, email us at [email protected].

Stay up to date with our news alerts by following us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

**Click here to join over 20,000 receiving our Whatsapp Status updates!**

**Click here to join the official TLS WhatsApp Community!**

Got a news tip? Email us at [email protected], Text 415-857-2667, or WhatsApp 609-661-8668.


  1. Remember Rabosi that Mr. Kleinhandler supported Obama and said he’s a friend of Israel in the Yated interview, I can’t not and will not support such a man. He may well be a stand up guy in our community but I don’t support liberalism.

  2. Well, now we have Republicans, Democrats and Christiecrats, former democrats who have abandoned the principles of their party and the people who have supported them, lining up behind a politician who is of the do what I say and not while I do gentry . While people struggle to buy gas to get to work.he flies over us all meeting with IOWA politicians and stopping by to watch one inning of his son’s baseball game. What can you expect from someone who as a GOVERNMENT WORKER went thru his expense account like it was play money.
    It’s amazing that the public is so gullible to swallow his line that the public workers and teachers are responsible for ALL of the State’s financial woes. Both parties want the public to forget that they robbed the country’s most solvent pension system to pay out homestead rebates and to keep the tax rate artificially low. Then when their house of cards plan to pay it back fell along with the stock market the rebates and lower taxes and the budget was balanced by both parties not paying their share of the pension fund, something that each and every worker did. Where is all the transportation funds to fix our horrible roads? Robbed for other things. Yes, the state is broke, and like Nero the politicians of both parties fiddled while the treasury was looted .

  3. They have not abandoned the principles of the party. That principle was to give away as much tax payer money as possible in return for votes. The change is there is not enough money to make the union happy.

Comments are closed.