Weekend readers of the New York Times got an eyeful yesterday; the Grey Lady took a long look at New York state, and the result is an article that could almost have appeared in the Weekly Standard or the National Review. While the Times carefully avoided drawing any indelicate conclusions that might upset its liberal readership, the review of government finance at the state and local level reveals an appalling picture of blue model thinking at its worst. New York state and local politicians, egged on by public sector unions, have dug the state into such a deep hole that it will be hard to emerge.
And the unions — along with the pro-bankruptcy wing of the Democratic Party — want to keep digging.
The reality is that from Long Island to Buffalo, New York cities and counties face severe and growing fiscal woes. The chief drivers of the crisis: blue sweetheart programs that are out of control: state pensions, Medicaid, and retiree health costs.
Example: New York City’s annual out of pocket pension costs have ballooned from $1.5 billion a year ten years ago to $8 billion today. This is the cost of the lies New York politicians have told their sheep like constituents for many years, promising fat pensions to workers while refusing to raise taxes to put enough money away for when the bills come due. According to the eye popping numbers in the Times, 3 percent of New York city property tax revenues went to pay pension costs in 2001; 35 percent of those revenues will go to pensions by 2015.
Meanwhile, the ratings agencies have been downgrading the debt of New York cities and counties as if we were on the Mediterranean: last month alone Rockland County and the city of Utica got downgrades, with Long Beach and Yonkers getting hit last year. Suffolk and Nassau counties are having to borrow to pay their pension fund contributions for this year; worse is likely to come even as the general economy slowly improves.