Here’s the short (?) version of a new rhubarb in New Jersey:
* Rafael Pi Roman, host of New Jersey Capitol Report, discussing school vouchers: “They can’t afford to pay, you know that. Some of these parents can’t afford to take their child out of these schools.”
* Vincent Giordano, executive director of the New Jersey Education Association, responding: “Life’s not always fair and I’m sorry about that.”
* Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, on that response: “You know, as Vince drives out of the palace on State Street every day in his big luxury car with his $500,000 salary, I’m sure life’s really fair for him…. That level of arrogance, that level of puffed-up, rich man baloney, is unacceptable in this state. He should resign. He should resign today.”
* Giordano, replying: “I have no intention of resigning. If he thinks he’s going to bully me like he bullies everyone else, he doesn’t understand who I am, or how deeply I care about the work I do…. For his abysmal record on education and his hypocrisy in claiming to care about children in urban districts while pursuing policies that have hurt them deeply, I call on Gov. Christie to resign from office immediately.”
* Steve Wollmer, NJEA spokesman, on Christie’s citation of a $500,000 salary: “Giordano’s true salary number from 2009 is $326,000, a combination of about $300,000 in salary and $26,000 in comp time, according to Wollmer…. Giordano most likely received between a 3 percent and 4 percent raise per year, bringing his total base salary in 2011 to roughly $325,000. Considering Giordano is heading an organization with 200,000 members, Wollmer said the salary is entirely appropriate. “It’s a job that eats up a lot of your time,” he said.
Let’s apply the Iannuzzi method to Giordano’s compensation. NJEA reported to the IRS in 2009 that Giordano earned $322,831 in “base compensation.” The IRS defines this as the figure included in Box 1 or Box 5 of the employee’s W-2 form. He also received $118,728 in “deferred compensation.” The IRS instructions require the inclusion in this category of “the annual increase or decrease in actuarial value, if any, of a defined benefit plan.” If I read its explanation correctly, NJEA calls this a “formula-based pension liability which is not an actual determination of any benefit.” Giordano also received $25,559 in non-taxable benefits, which for the most part appear to be medical and insurance coverage.
It’s up to NJEA members to decide if $500,000 is outrageous while $325,000 is perfectly reasonable, but Giordano is correct about one thing: Life’s not always fair. If it were, he would get the annual $1,000 clothing allowance that NJEA’s executive officers receive.