HAS THIS "SOPRANO" TYPE MENTALITY BEEN IN EFFECT SO VERY LONG THAT THEY THINK WE TAXPAYERS ARE NOW TOTALLY ...."IMMUNE" ??
LEGISLATORS STILL AIM TO SWEETEN PUBLIC PENSIONS
FISCALWATCH MEMO July 14, 2005
The employer share of pension contributions in New York has risen by more than $3 billion in the last five years, straining taxpayers throughout the state.
Yet state legislators this year have passed dozens of bills—and introduced literally hundreds of others—that would further expand the already generous retirement benefits of government workers.
During the 2005 session, both Houses of the Legislature passed at least 46 bills increasing pension benefits for entire groups of employees, at a total estimated cost of more than $120 million in onetime or recurring expenses to taxpayers.
All state and local government workers in New York, as in most other states, are currently entitled to a guaranteed "defined benefit" pension based on career longevity and highest average pay. Basic pensions typically range from 60 to 70 percent of final average salary for career civilian employees, who can retire with full benefits as early as age 55. These benefits are free of payroll taxes and state and city income taxes. When government retirees reach 62, they are supplemented by Social Security. They are financed out of common pension trust funds, invested mainly in stocks and bonds, and replenished mainly by employer contributions, with some contribution by employees as well.
[COLOR=dark-blue]New York City's pension obligations have risen from $615 million in fiscal 2000 to a projected $3.4 billion in 2005 (a growth rate of 453 percent), and are projected to hit $5 billion in fiscal 2007[/COLOR] .Rising pension contributions alone account for more than half the overall increase in the latest city budget.
Tax-funded employer contributions to the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) and the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS), which cover all state and local employees other than teachers outside New York City, increased by $1.1 billion (670 percent) between 2000 and 2004.
Employer contributions to the New York State Teachers Retirement System (TRS), which covers most public school employees outside New York City, rose by $250 million (730 percent) in just the last two years and are slated to double again in the year ahead. Moreover, the TRS recently warned school districts that pension contributions "in subsequent years...will likely continue to increase".
In addition to the 9/11 disability measure, other major benefit sweeteners passed by both Houses this year and either signed by the Governor or awaiting the Governor's signature include:
Bigger Pensions for State Police Investigators
Looser "Heart Bill" Standards
Increased Maximum Benefits for Cops and Firefighters
Healthy Retiree Bonus
35 Year Plan for All Teachers
Some of the most costly proposals introduced but not passed in either house include:
Bonuses for More Retired Cops and Firefighters
More COLA for More Retirees
Free Ride to Retirement
Earlier Retirement for All Non-Uniformed Workers
Another Apple for Teachers
Pension costs are among the most serious and intractable financial issues facing government managers.
In the short run, there is nothing government officials can do to reverse the recent run-up in pension costs. But they should at least observe the Hippocratic oath:
"first, do no harm."
Rather than routinely reintroducing the public employee unions' full wish list of pension benefit enhancements, it would be more appropriate for the Legislature to declare a moratorium on consideration of any new retirement benefit increases.
Al Baker of the New York Times has a story on the report. An excerpt:
Skyrocketing pension costs have been straining city and state budgets for years, adding more than $4 billion in costs to New York's taxpayers since 2000.
Yet the Legislature responded this year with hundreds of measures to sweeten various pension pots for unions and workers, according to a report by a conservative policy research group, the Empire Center for New York State Policy, an arm of the Manhattan Institute.
According to the group's director, those pension costs have been rising at a faster rate than the costs for Medicaid, a $44 billion health care program for the poor that state and local officials have also cited as a drain on their finances.
"The only thing the Legislature has done since this pension bomb began exploding is to simply reintroduce every union's wish list of pension sweeteners, which would make costs even higher," said the director, Edmund J. McMahon, who wrote a report released Thursday analyzing the Legislature's actions on pension matters in the recently ended session.