ExxonMobil protest, a new insight on pension and benefits, and a host of committee hearings. Here’s a brief look at what’s happening in the statehouse on Thursday.
Senate Legislative Oversight
The Senate Legislative Oversight Committee will meet on Thursday, June 4, at 10:30 a.m. in Committee Room 4 in the State House Annex in Trenton to hear testimony from invited State Investment Council and other state officials, pension fund trustees, academics and financial experts. Key issues to be discussed include, according to committee chair Bob Gordon (D-38): the role of alternative investments in the state pension system’s portfolio; how to assess the performance of alternative investments compared with other investment choices in delivering an appropriate mix of risk and return for the beneficiaries of the system; and whether the management and performance fees for the alternative investment portfolio are justified by the return on investment.
“It has been 11 years since New Jersey’s pension system began its push into alternative investments,” Gordon said in a statement this week. “Today, $3 out of every $10 in our pension system is invested in hedge funds, private equity, real estate or other alternatives. It is time that we engage in an honest assessment of where New Jersey stands relative to other large pension systems and determine if these investments are truly worth the fees.”
The hearing come on the heels on an ongoing investigation by heads of the Public Employees Retirement System Board of Trustees and the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System into the fund’s expenses.
Critics of the state’s $225 settlement with ExxonMobil will follow-up yesterday’s public hearing in Bayonne with a noon protest on the steps of the statehouse, after which activists are expected to deliver thousands of postcards and petitions to the NJDEP calling on them to reject the agreement. The controversial settlement has served as a flash-point between opponents and supporters in the statehouse over the last several weeks, and today’s demonstration is ostensibly aimed at raising a final red flag before the public 60-day comment period ends on June 5 and the deal sent before a judge for approval.
According to organizers of the protest, the coalition — including Democratic senators like Ray Lesniak and John McKeon and representatives from organizations like NJ Sierra Club and NJ Citizen Action — is holding a Lobby Day in conjunction with the rally to urge legislators to adopt SCR163/ ACR 230, which would constitutionally dedicate monies received by the state in Natural Resource Damage litigation. Both houses of the legislature have passed resolutions condemning the settlement in recent weeks.
“When you look at the scope and level of this deal, you get to see the magnitude of the sellout that it really is,” Jeff Tittel, director of the NJ Sierra Club, and one of the settlement’s most vocal critics, said at yesterday’s hearing. “If [Gov. Chris Christie] was Pinocchio, and with what this administration is saying, his nose would be in San Diego heading somewhere toward Hawaii right now.”