Though anything can happen, it’s almost certain that the biggest crisis the next mayor will face will be fiscal. And it must be addressed head on.
All the city’s unions are working without contracts, a disaster in waiting Mayor Bloomberg is leaving for his successor to handle. The costs of healthcare for city employees and retirees, which almost none of them pay a dime into, continues to grow. Taxpayers’ contributions to the retirees’ pensions are skyrocketing.
According to a recent study by the Citizens Budget Commission, pensions, retirement benefits and other costs the city is committed to paying will total $17.8 billion — nearly a quarter of the city’s budget — just two years from now. That’s twice as much as in 2005.
While we appreciate the vital services city employees provide, the situation is unsustainable. This is the reason that even as budgets keep going up, you hear about nothing but budget cuts. Pensions, the fastest rising expense, cost city taxpayers $3.2 billion in 2005 but will cost them $8.2 billion in 2015, according to the CBC.
Reining in these costs, so the city doesn’t go bankrupt as some municipalities across the country should be the No. 1 issue in the mayoral race, but it’s not. That’s probably because most of the major candidates on the Democratic side are angling for endorsements from the very unions sure to oppose any cutbacks in their benefits.
All except one: late entrant Anthony Weiner.
This is not an endorsement by any means, but we have to hand it to Weiner for being the only major Democratic candidate who is offering anything concrete on tackling these costs, anything more than vague promises to “put everything on the table” when it comes to negotiating new contracts.
Weiner has said in writing that it’s time to revisit guaranteed pensions for teachers (42 percent of the city workforce, according to the Manhattan Institute) and told this newspaper that it’s time city employees started paying into their healthcare. He’s right on both counts.
The ex-congressman, forced from office two years ago over lewd behavior and public dishonesty, can afford to make these proposals in a sense, because he’s not seeking union endorsements he’ll never get, and he’s not fundraising, since he’s got a leftover campaign chest of more than $4 million.
We wish the other candidates would tackle these issues. Whether they do or not, the next mayor will be forced to.