Tuesday, October 26, 2010

NJ Turnpike Scandal a Microcosm of America

Ever wonder why the richest country in the world is bankrupt? This is why.

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority is spending tens of millions on unjustified bonuses, perks and double-overlapping bonuses—even as the state careens toward bankruptcy, Fox News has reported. The public sector unions are so strong, and the state so weak, that workers are even paid a bonus to come in to work on their birthday. No joke.
Two years after the failure of Lehman brothers and the onset of hard recession, New Jersey is still spending tax dollars on birthday bonuses. Meanwhile, unemployment has skyrocketed and 15 percent of homes being sold in the state are foreclosures.
But birthday bonuses are only the beginning.
One Turnpike employee who recently retired with a base salary of $73,469 received a whopping $321,985 in extra payouts. He took home $143,806 in paid sick leave, $87,380 in vacation leave, $53,497 involuntary separation (whatever that is), $24,600 in separation bonus (whatever that is), $7,559 in unused vacation, and $5,143 in longevity payout.
Remember, this is just one of more than 2,700 employees who get these type of bonuses.
And all this was revealed just as turnpike tolls are set to jump again—on top of the 50 percent increase in 2008.
The bonus banquet doesn’t end there. Employees also get overtime pay for removing snow on snow days—and additional “snow removal bonuses.” Similarly, not only do they get overtime pay for working holidays, but they get “holiday bonuses” too.
Then there are the thousands of dollars spent per year on employee bowling leagues. Don’t forget the free Turnpike transponders and the tens of thousands of dollars in scholarship money for employees’ children that is handed out too.
It pays to be a public employee, especially when there is no accountability. In case you are wondering, Turnpike “executive management” had their pay structures piggybacked to what the unions received. No conflict of interest there.
The recent audit also found that the Turnpike authority overspent on health insurance by “not shopping around.” If it had enrolled in the state’s health insurance plan, for example, it could have saved $4 million for taxpayers this year alone. But who can blame them for not wanting government-run health care?