Now that he’s leaving office and doesn’t have any more opportunities to do anything about the problem, outgoing New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg thinks his successor ought to tackle the Big Apple’s problem with ballooning pension obligations. He explains in a New York Daily News column.
… There is one barrier to growth that has been particularly difficult to scale — and it is especially dangerous to ignore.
I’m talking, of course, about the explosion in the cost of pension and health care benefits for municipal workers.
Right now, our country appears to be in the early stages of a growing fiscal crisis that, if nothing is done, will extract a terrible toll on the next generation. Here in New York City, over the past 12 years our pension costs have gone from $1.5 billion to $8.2 billion. That’s almost a 500 percent increase — when inflation totaled only 35 percent.
The $7 billion additional that taxpayers are forced to spend on pensions every year is $7 billion more that cannot be invested in our schools and our parks and our social safety net, or our mass transit system, or our climate resiliency work, or our affordable housing efforts, or our tax-relief for working families.
Think about it this way: During our administration’s time in office, we’ve spent $68 billion in taxpayer money on pensions, compared to $5.3 billion on affordable housing. So taxpayers spent about 13 dollars on pensions for every one dollar that they invest in affordable housing.
Unless something is done, that $7 billion additional will continue to grow, and continue to harm our ability to invest in the future. And, it will be compounded by the growth in health care costs, which have also continued to skyrocket.