Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said numerous times during his daily COVID-19 news briefings that New York is broke and in need of a federal bailout.
This wouldn’t be the case, in part, if the state reduced its state employees’ salaries and pensions, eliminated wasteful spending, and prevented state legislators from earning both pensions and salaries at the same time, Adam Andrzejewski, CEO and founder of OpenTheBooks.com, countered.
In a new OpenTheBooks.com report, first published by Forbes, Andrzejewski highlights one major reason why New York’s budget is out of whack: 290,304 public employees earn six-figure salaries costing taxpayers $38 billion.
This excludes 20,000 local, city and state employees who earn more than Gov. Cuomo’s $178,500 annual salary.
On top of the fact that state legislators gave themselves and the governor a 60 percent and 40 percent pay increase, respectively, in 2019, 22 state representatives are collecting pensions and salaries for the same position at the taxpayers’ expense, the report revealed.
Called double dippers by critics, legislators who were previously elected, retired, and then were re-elected again now receive a salary and a pension for holding the same position – of roughly more than $180,000 in total.
Taxpayers can utilize OpenTheBooks.com’s new interactive mapping tool to identify six-figure salary and pension earners in New York.
Andrzejewski points out that anyone can search to identify which of the Port Authority of New York–New Jersey’s 4,830 employees, for example, earn $100,000 and more, including 183 law enforcement officers who earned between $250,000 and $423,467 in 2019 alone.
Sergeants earned up to $423,467; lieutenants, $374,588; and police officers, $367,774, the interactive mapping tool shows.
The salaries continue to increase despite a 2016 City Journal investigation into the authority’s “inability to manage its own police force — one of the most overpaid, poorly supervised and unresponsive forces in the nation,” the New York Post reported.
The OpenTheBooks.com audit found that 302 employees of the Division of State Police also out-earned the governor, including up to $252,921 in salary, overtime, and other pay and 802 retirees earned more than the governor.
“Only in New York can school janitors out-earn the principals,” Andrzejewski adds. The group’s analysis uncovered 40 custodial engineers who earned between $154,000 and $256,000,compared to 57 principals who earned less than $154,000.
“Private associations and nonprofit organizations have gamed the public pension system for personal gain,” he adds. These associations and non-profits are funded by taxpayers, including their guaranteed taxpayer-funded pensions.
According to a September 2019 report of New York’s finances, the nonprofit organization Truth in Accounting (TIA) gave New York an F Grade for its fiscal health.
“New York’s elected officials have made repeated financial decisions that have left the state with a debt burden of $136.6 billion,” the report states. “That burden equates to $20,500 for every state taxpayer.”
Despite this, in mid-April, as co-leader of the National Governors Association, Cuomo requested Congress to give all 50 states an additional $500 billion in federal bail out money to offset their losses due to their states’ respective shutdown losses.
“To ensure New Yorkers continue to have full access to essential services and the strong economic foundation they support, we have joined 49 other states and the territories in requesting $500 billion in unrestricted funding,” New York Division of Budget spokesman Freeman Klopott told Newsday in early May. Up to $60 billion of the funds would be for New York, he said.
New York’s financial problems stem mostly from unfunded retirement obligations that have accumulated over the years, TIA adds. Of its $252.6 billion in retirement benefits promised, $10 billion in pension and $110.6 billion in retiree health care benefits remain unfunded.
Likewise, “New York is not completely transparent with its taxpayers,” TIA says. “Its reported net position is inflated by $6.7 billion, largely because the state defers recognizing losses incurred when the net pension liability increases,” the report states.