NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 23, 2006

Throughout the United States, many private companies have stopped offering pension plans while public service workers' benefits grow more generous.  No one begrudges the men and women who serve the people most directly a decent retirement.  But if the costs get out of control, they risk a financial disaster or a political backlash, says the New York Times.

This week in the Times, Michael Cooper reports on the ways New York City workers manage to lobby enormous new pension guarantees through the State Legislature.

  • Urban park rangers and 911 operators can now retire with full pensions after 25 years on the job -- even if they're still in their 40's.
  • Correction officers, emergency medical technicians, sanitation workers, firefighters and police officers who come down with heart disease can retire with pensions equal to three-quarters of their salary, exempt from state and local taxes.
  • Ditto correction officers, police officers and firefighters who contract hepatitis, tuberculosis or HIV.
  • Meanwhile, the city's pension plans may be facing a shortfall of up to $49 billion.

While some city officials can be wildly irresponsible when it comes to pensions, the real culprits here are the members of the State Legislature.  They are happy to shovel these measures through in return for campaign contributions and election endorsements from the unions while the city pays the tab, says the Times.

State legislators should not be able to impose those costs on the city, but as long as they have that power, the public must demand that they use it more responsibly.  Democrats and Republicans are equally culpable here.  Every incumbent running for re-election should be asked where he or she was when all these giveaways were sailing through to passage, says the Times.

Source: Editorial, "Pension Giveaway," New York Times, August 23, 2006.

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