New Jersey Kerfuffle: How Much Does Vincent Giordano Make?

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.

Well, it looks like once again we find people tangled in the issue of union executive compensation. It crops up every so often, and leads to big headlines and clarifications that fail to clarify.

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.