The staggering shortfall in New Jersey's pension fund has many factors - the biggest being overly generous benefits, the failure of politicians to pay into the fund and a downturn in investments.

Still, there are myriad little factors and political deals that add up. One came to mind as I read stories about the flap at the Delaware River Port Authority, headed by John Matheussen - a former Republican state senator from Gloucester County.

In 2003, Democratic Gov. Jim McGreevey wanted to get incumbent Matheussen out so that Democrats would have a better shot at the seat. So he got Matheussen the DRPA job. But Matheussen wanted to stay in New Jersey's pension system, and DRPA employees were covered under Pennsylvania's system. So the Legislature passed a law that allowed employees of bi-state authorities the option of remaining in New Jersey's pension system.

Bingo. Matheussen got what he wanted. He stayed in New Jersey's system, where his pension would be calculated on his DRPA salary (now more than $219,000) rather than his $49,000 salary as a senator.

Democrats won the 4th District seat.

And New Jersey taxpayers? Well, they got what the usually get.

Wonder how much that piece of legislation will cost the pension system over time?

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