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New York Post

 

Weiner Stands Tall

May 27, 2013

By Nicole Gelinas

PRINTER FRIENDLY

On public-employee reforms

Want an idea of how limp the Democratic mayoral field is? It finally has a candidate offering specifics on how New York can avoid going bankrupt. But it’s Anthony Weiner, the guy with nothing left to hide and nothing to lose.

Last week, Weiner inserted himself into the mayoral race via video — and a link to a set of policy briefs with some genuinely interesting bits.

The former Brooklyn congressman revealed things no other Dem has revealed: both concern and ideas about the pensions and health-care costs that, at $17 billion a year, eat up nearly a third of the city budget.

Weiner started with pensions. “The old model” of guaranteed pensions “is not appealing to many talented people,” he wrote. “New York should . . . permit teachers to trade the [guaranteed pension] for a higher pay today.”

Teachers are 42 percent of the city workforce. Fixing their future pensions fixes a lot of future budget deficits.

Sure, Weiner was always a slick pol — so he may be saying what he thinks might get him elected, without much intent of actually leading on the issue. (Mayor Bloomberg talks about these problems — but he’s never summoned the energy and creativity to do anything about them.)

But maybe Weiner’s figured out that these can be winning issues — after all, he got elected and re-elected to Congress by talking a lot.

And in the Manhattan Institute’s recent poll on the mayoral race, 44 percent of voters said the city’s public-sector “pensions . . . are too expensive,” compared with 40 percent who said that “city employees deserve better benefits than private-sector employees . . . because these benefits encourage people to work for the city.”

Talking pensions is a big deal for another reason: You can’t fix the problem without action in Albany.

But Gov. Cuomo, after making modest tweaks to the system in his first 18 months in office, is finished with pension reform. By raising the topic, Weiner can only annoy him.

And Weiner’s also poking at the other gap in the city’s budget: health care. In an opinion article, he wrote, “Every other part of our budget is being cut so we can pay for health insurance.”

He says he’d “ask city workers to pay a small portion of their health [insurance] premiums,” as “our present policy of having employees pay none of their premium costs” — the case for 95 percent of city workers — is “out of line with virtually every other municipal workforce.”

The key question: How small a portion? To be in line with private workers, city workers should pay at least 20 percent of their health-insurance costs.

Here, too, Weiner has the public on his side. Sixty percent of New Yorkers said city workers should “contribute to their own health-insurance premiums on the same basis as private-sector workers.”

Now contrast Weiner’s stand to the other Dems’ positions — or lack thereof. None of them has had anything to say on pensions, hiding behind the figleaf that pension reform is already done. They all avoid health care, too.

Christine Quinn, as City Council speaker, must sign off on city budgets — and she’s signed off on these rising costs without saying a word.

She also shows a poor understanding of the city’s fiscal problems. Quinn told Vogue that she was almost late to her wedding last year because “the budget negotiations were tougher than usual because we were in a financial crunch.”

Nope. The city’s economy — and revenues — were just fine last year. As Weiner notes, it’s the benefits spending that’s the problem.

When pressed, city Comptroller John Liu says he’d make health-care costs subject to “hard negotiations.” Ex-Comptroller Bill Thompson and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio haven’t said anything.

They all likely know the city has no money to maintain the status quo. But they’ll avoid admitting reality as long as they can — it irritates the municipal unions.

These guys are all trying to score with people Weiner knows he can’t get to return his texts: big-time public-sector unions. (De Blasio’s already snagged a big private-sector health-care union, Local 1199 — and you can bet health-care workers aren’t interested in cutting health-care costs.)

The GOP field is half-better. Former MTA chief Joe Lhota wants city workers to pay health premiums, and Adolfo Carríon (an Independence Party member seeking the Republican line) has noted he paid premiums when he worked for the feds.

But supermarket mogul John Catsimatidis says he still hasn’t figured out his benefits platform. (To be fair, neither has Bloomberg.)

Weiner doesn’t think he’s unelectable because of his extracurricular adventures. His primary competitors, though, think that when it comes to showing voters the naked truth about public-employee benefits, they’re better off wearing burkas.

Original Source: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/weiner_stands_tall_pys0W1UMdkU302WsLr0BlI

 

 
 
 

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