Mayors and county executive across New York warned Wednesday that local governments face a dire fiscal picture if the state doesn’t lower growing pension costs.
Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks said local governments could face bankruptcy without pension reform. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said more city money goes to retirees’ pensions than police, fire and sanitation services combined.
Public employees’ unions are opposing Cuomo’s push, arguing that a new pension tier was implemented just two years ago.
“Wall Street nearly melted down the economy and got bailed out, but future nurses, teachers, highway workers and school bus drivers are supposed to give up hope of retirement security,” said Stephen Madarasz, spokesman for the Civil Service Employees Association, the state’s largest public-employees union with 265,000 members.
“The threat of bankruptcy hangs over every single municipal government in this state because of escalating pension costs,” Brooks said. “The facts are clear, and the facts are very disturbing.”
The growing pension expenses have prompted some municipalities to borrow off the state pension fund to cushion their annual payments. About $200 million was amortized this year by 162 entities that have public employees, according to the state Comptroller’s Office. That’s up from nearly $44 million in 2011.
White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach said borrowing to pay for pension costs is bad fiscal policy, but an indication of how serious the problem is.
“The road to hell is paved in amortizing pensions,” he said. “All you are doing is taking a current operating cost and pushing it down the line.”