Friday, May 16, 2008

Whose Pension Bill Is it Anyway?

As Danny Hakim of the New York Times points out today in an enterprising story, the financial impact of a bill to grant thousands of city workers early retirement was provided by the unions who support it. On its face, there's nothing wrong with a union supplying analysis, except that it's included in the bill's language making it appear as if it's the government's own conclusion or as if independently verified.

Lawmakers, or in this case the union, claim the new benefit won't result in a cost, while the city says it will be $200 million in red ink annually. (Put aside that the Times goes on to quote the union's actuary hedging that the bill if enacted would actually cost a fourth of what the city estimates.)

What do the bill's sponsors, Senator Martin Golden and Assemblyman Peter J. Abbate Jr., have to say for themselves? Assemblyman Abbate told the Times: "It’s their bill." Actually, he's the elected official and it's his name that is affixed to the bill.

There's nothing wrong with a union or a non-government organization providing analysis or guidance for legislators. However, this affair illustrates the utter lack of transparency in the state legislature and lack of initiative of some members. Assemblyman Abbate's claim is shameful.

What's next? Would he introduce a bill to sell the Brooklyn Bridge because a friendly special interest group hands him a piece of paper that claims it's a good idea?

It's problematic whether he knew did or didn't know what was in the bill. So, I ask: what did or didn't he know and when did or didn't he know it?


Anonymous said...

I know Abbate's ignorance is hard to believe, but have you ever met the guy? He's not exactly the brightest bulb.

Anonymous said...

I take exception with the statement that unions provide guidance to legislature. Isn't that what has gotten NY into a good portion of the mess it is in today? Unions "guidance" is only going to be suggestive of what's good for the union. Not always a good thing for taxpayers. I for one do not want nysed or nysut or csea and their ilk "suggesting" potential reform.