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 its 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 hes never summoned the energy and creativity to do anything about them.)
But maybe Weiners 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 Institutes recent poll on the mayoral race, 44 percent of voters said the citys 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 cant 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 Weiners also poking at the other gap in the citys 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 hed “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 Weiners 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 shes signed off on these rising costs without saying a word.
She also shows a poor understanding of the citys 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 citys economy — and revenues — were just fine last year. As Weiner notes, its the benefits spending thats the problem.
When pressed, city Comptroller John Liu says hed make health-care costs subject to “hard negotiations.” Ex-Comptroller Bill Thompson and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio havent said anything.
They all likely know the city has no money to maintain the status quo. But theyll 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 cant get to return his texts: big-time public-sector unions. (De Blasios already snagged a big private-sector health-care union, Local 1199 — and you can bet health-care workers arent 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 hasnt figured out his benefits platform. (To be fair, neither has Bloomberg.)
Weiner doesnt think hes 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, theyre better off wearing burkas.
Original Source: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/weiner_stands_tall_pys0W1UMdkU302WsLr0BlI