Bloomberg urges pension fix in last big address as New York mayor

NEW YORK Wed Dec 18, 2013 3:56pm EST

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg stands before a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the opening of the new 4 World Trade Center in New York November 13, 2013. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg stands before a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the opening of the new 4 World Trade Center in New York November 13, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in his final major policy speech before leaving office at year's end, on Wednesday warned that a budding U.S. urban revival is threatened by mushrooming public pension and health-care costs.

Bloomberg, addressing the Economic Club of New York just two weeks before his three terms in office are due to end, said the "golden age of the suburb is over, and it has been replaced by a new urban renaissance that is re-defining the future."

But he also urged the nation to confront what he said was the biggest looming crisis facing cities: exploding public pension and health-care costs.

"It is forcing government into a fiscal straight jacket that severely limits its ability to provide an effective social safety net," Bloomberg said. "The costs of today's benefits cannot be sustained for another generation - not without inflicting real harm on our citizens, and on our children and grandchildren."

The mayor, who was elected as a Republican and later gave up his party affiliation, led the city in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001, and during the recession that hit six years later.

He has been credited with making the city safer, greener and more livable as he pioneered public health and anti-carbon initiatives that have become models for other cities.

Bloomberg argued that exploding pension costs faced by the city have limited what it can spend on other priorities such as affordable housing and called on his successor, Bill de Blasio, to take up "comprehensive benefit reform."

He also echoed President Dwight Eisenhower's critique of the "military-industrial complex" by repeatedly criticizing what he termed the "labor electoral complex."

After the speech, Harry Nespoli, chairperson of the Municipal Labor Committee, fired back with a statement.

"Unlike the private sector, where workers jump from job to job and have higher pay, our municipal workers spend their entire professional lives working for the city knowing that they will be able to have a secure retirement," he said.

"As Mayor Bloomberg goes off into his retirement, he should realize that others who have worked just as hard deserve it as well," Nespoli said.

Bloomberg will be succeeded on January 1 by de Blasio, currently the city's public advocate. An unabashed liberal who won in a landslide, de Blasio has vowed to address a gap between rich and poor that he blames in part on Bloomberg's policies.

As mayor, De Blasio must confront another legacy of the Bloomberg administration: expired contracts for all public sector unions that potentially leave the city with a bill that could top $7 billion, if retroactive wage increases were to be paid.

On Wednesday, De Blasio named Dean Fuleihan, a long-time former state legislative budget negotiator and adviser, as his budget director.

Fuleihan said the first budget of the de Blasio administration will tackle "economic inequality in our city head-on," including expanding access to affordable housing and early education.

(Reporting by Edith Honan; editing by Gunna Dickson)

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Comments (3)
unionwv wrote:
“The mayor, who was elected as a Republican and later gave up his party affiliation, led the city in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001, and during the recession that hit six years later.”

Unfortunately, it seems progressive-collectivists (wrongly called “liberals”, IMO) often masquerade as Constitutionalists {“conservatives”) until they gain power. The Chief Justice of the U.S.Supreme Court is another example.

Dec 18, 2013 8:55am EST  --  Report as abuse
TheNewWorld wrote:
Great. I ran up a large unfunded set of promises to the public workers, and I urge you to deal with these pensions and health care plans after I leave. Have fun. I hope it works out better for you than it did Detroit.

Dec 18, 2013 8:28pm EST  --  Report as abuse
zy-yz wrote:
Excluding the very rich (whom we’ll define as earning 500K+ per annum, just for argument’s sake, and who are governed by contracts which often, even usually, include parachute provisions and stock compensation beyond the per-annum salary) …

… nowadays just about the only place a “private retirement pension” exists is, the PUBLIC sector. More specifically, the PUBLIC UNION sector.

Unionized public employees like to say that, “well, our salaries are sooo low, so a lifetime pension and lifetime medical care is our rightful “reward” after serving the public for 20 years (or 25 years, or 30 years)”.

In actuality, most low- to mid-level “public servants” are little more than high-school drop-outs (see: employees at ANY public bureau or department; e.g., DMV; City Department of Health; certainly any U.S. Post Office), who simply could not get a job in the private sector. This is precisely WHY they all go running to get a taxpayer-funded public job.

Put another way, the majority of public servants aren’t doing any favors to the “public” with their service; rather, the public is doing THEM a favor by paying them a salary they could not otherwise earn in the private sector.

The public sector, for the most part, is akin to a big, make-work, welfare program, giving monthly checks to those who … for the most part … wouldn’t last long before being fired, in the private sector.

Dec 19, 2013 9:11am EST  --  Report as abuse
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