President’s Message: Got COLA?
Right now, the NJSPBA Facebook page enjoys an audience of approximately 35,000 followers. We like to publicize what’s best about law enforcement, deliver timely news and share the sorrows when we lose a brother or sister in blue.
Comments often come fast and furious. Most are respectful and positive. Some aren’t. The perils and pitfalls of social media, I guess. One comment that has made a consistent appearance is simply: WHERE’S MY COLA?
NJSPBA CURES CANCER!
Where’s my COLA?
NJSPBA ACHIEVES WORLD PEACE!
Where’s my COLA??
NJSPBA LAUNCHES TRIP TO MARS!
Great, where’s my COLA?
Exaggeration, yes. But I certainly get the frustrations, especially after so much time has passed. Chapter 78 was a gut punch, to be sure. It had a profound impact on all of us in New Jersey – active members, retired and the unborn.
I get the anger, but the belief that we are ignoring it, or don’t have it on our priority list, is misplaced resentment. I hate it when facts get in the way of an opinion, but Chapter 55, an act concerning the management of the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System signed by Governor Murphy in 2018, significantly sped up the return of COLA for those of us in PFRS.
Let us not forget that Chapter 78 required 20 consecutive years of valuation above 80 percent before COLA could be restored. If we even exceeded 80 percent today – and kept it there for 20 years – in a best-case scenario, COLA wouldn’t have returned until 2041.
The PFRS trustees in this new system are fiduciaries. Essentially, these trustees now have a legal and ethical relationship with the PFRS Fund. They can’t turn on the spigot for COLA until it can be responsibly funded. I hate everything about Chapter 78, but, quite frankly, if some of those steps weren’t taken, we would be looking at an end date of PFRS like the other pension systems are. With those changes and taking over the governance of PFRS, we now have a fully funded date. Before you jump down my throat and tell me how Jack was going to restore COLA, I’ll simply state that he COULDN’T! It was literally impossible. The only people that can do it are the PFRS trustees.
The trustee board is keenly aware of the need for COLA. Trust me. But they have the responsibility of the system being there for everyone, including those who haven’t even taken a law enforcement test yet.
We will continue to have the COLA experts proffering their “opinions” in whatever forum they choose. If a day has gone by in the past few years when I didn’t hear the word “COLA,” I can’t recall it. But beware of false prophets, please. There is a ton of bad information out there. What you need to know is that there is nothing higher on the priority list. We can’t just turn a key and start the COLA engine.
There is a silver lining here for the “new” men and women. Sign up and max out your deferred compensation plans today. And sleep well knowing that the PFRS system will be there when you retire because of our decision in 2018. The last time I looked, I’ll be retiring too.
And finally this month, one post I would thoroughly enjoy making on Facebook is:
NJSPBA RECORDS ZERO SUICIDES IN 2021!
Regretfully that will not happen this year. But it doesn’t mean I can’t wish for it. There are countless resources out there to help if this time of year is getting to you. If we learned anything, a smile, a laugh and a great personality doesn’t mean there isn’t a demon or two lurking behind the face. Please keep an eye on your brothers and sisters as we come into the holidays. Better to confront them and be embarrassed for a moment than regret not saying something for the rest of your life.
Stay safe and stay well.