The head of New Jersey’s League of Municipalities is warning that Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed changes to the public worker pension and health care systems could “inspire the mass exodus” of public employees.

Those reforms would freeze the current pension system and move employees onto a hybrid defined-benefit, 401(k)-like defined-contribution plan. Among other changes, the proposal would also reduce their health care coverage and require them to pay hire premiums. 

The story has generated more than 1,400 comments since it was published. While some readers said it would be good for the state if some workers left, others said public employees shouldn’t be blamed for the state’s pension woes.

These are a few of the comments that caught our attention. Some comments have been edited for clarity. Continue the conversation in the comments section.

There will be NO mass exodus of local workers.The only jobs in this state are part time jobs with no medical insurance. For years this state and politicians ignored the high cost to NJ citizens for pensions and medical insurance for nothing more then Votes to hope and stay in office. When private business were ending pension plans and offering lower-level medical plans the state increased pensions and medical plans on the backs of its citizens. Put all public jobs back into the Social Security System and offer them 401k’s and end top-level medical plans. They should also end the banking of vacation days, sick days, giving longevity raises and raise retirement age to receive any pension.

Those threatening mass exodus would only discover that there is not another place in this country where they could find comparable pay and benefits, cutbacks or not. Let them leave. Perhaps all of those in the private sector who are paying for this group to have far better benefits and pensions than they do should leave. That scenario is far more likely.

Let the mass exodus begin. Like real businesses, state and towns will be forced to reorganize and prioritize and do it with less. Anyone really essential can be hired as a consultant for six months to teach the new people. The world will go on, much less expensively.

And as soon as they gain the experience they need, they’re outta there. Once you make PW jobs the same as private, BUT you don’t give comparable wages, or make it up with benefits, they’re not very attractive to talented people. If there’s no security, then PW jobs have no allure. The good ones will not stay, or won’t even go there to begin with. You can pat yourselves on the back all you want, but you get what you pay for.

  1. There will be a significant “brain drain” from government at all levels. I will use myself as an example: I have been a career firefighter for the past 30 years and 3 months. I could have retired over 5 years ago but I chose to stay because I love my job, there is no better job in the world. I am currently a 3rd level supervisor in a large urban fire dept and I would like to stay another 6 years. Due to the reforms of 2011, I am hanging on by a thread as it is and my accountant tells me it is costing me money to stay. Should there be any further reforms I will have no choice but to retire and begin drawing from the pension system immediately, rather than paying in for the next 6 years. This will only further strain the pension system as I’m a young guy (that may be part of the grand plan btw.
  2. By “forcing” people in my position to retire you will only see a further strain on the pension system where members retire sooner than planned and draw from the system rather than pay into the system (at the higher rates). There is no question that there will be adverse and unintended consequences to this idea.

USA Today reports that 36% of American workers have LESS than a thousand dollars saved for retirement. Yes we are stupid ( and paid poorly). That doesn’t change the fact that we will have millions of elderly with no funds. Will America let them die in the streets or support them somehow?401(k)s are a joke and Wall St. is laughing all the way to the bank.