Just over one year ago, on July 16, 2013, the Citizens Budget Commission (CBC) sent the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) a letter with recommendations for improving the Authority’s budget process, with the goals of greater transparency, long-term financial viability, and public accountability for performance.
Today is the first day of fiscal year 2015. New York City’s $75 billion budget is the first to be crafted by Mayor Bill de Blasio and adopted by the City Council under Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s leadership. This blog post examines what’s new in the fiscal year 2015 budget and makes recommendations for steering the City’s finances over the next four years.
As the New York City budget for fiscal year 2015 nears adoption, the City Council is negotiating with the Mayor to secure funding for its priorities, such as universal school lunches, legal services for evictees, and increased support for public libraries. One of the more expensive Council initiatives, at an estimated cost of almost $100 million annually, is the hiring of 1,000 new police officers to increase staffing at police precincts.
Last week five bills on CBC’s Benefit Sweetener Scorecard passed one house of the State Legislature. The most expensive bill (A7862/S5644) was passed in the Senate and would increase pension benefits for SUNY police officers to half-pay after 25 years.
A bill moving swiftly through the Legislature would reverse recent pension reforms and greatly increase New York City’s pension fund contribution costs. The bill, A9594/S7326, would increase disability pension benefits for police officers hired after July 1, 2009, when a more financially sustainable “Tier III” plan went into effect.
New U.S. Census data show New York maintained its position as the top per-pupil spender among states on public elementary-secondary education in 2012. New York spent $19,552 per student, compared to $10,608 on average nationally, and $16,274 and $17,266 on average in the neighboring states of Connecticut and New Jersey, respectively.
New York State’s leaders deserve credit for keeping state-financed budget growth below a self-imposed 2 percent spending cap since fiscal year 2011, a sharp departure from historical norms. The discipline has markedly improved the State’s fiscal condition and spurred key reforms in Medicaid and State operations.
Now that New York State’s fiscal year 2015 budget has been adopted the legislature is moving on to other business. Bills that “sweeten” or enrich public employee pensions and benefits are typically taken up during the last weeks of session. To help curb this costly activity CBC publishes an annual Benefit Sweetener Scorecard.
The fact that the entire unionized New York City municipal workforce is working under expired contracts is a big problem, but it does not mean that all municipal workers have gone without raises since their contracts expired.