Friday, May 21, 2010

Cities Struggle to Pay Pension and Healthcare Benefits Public Employees

What do Flint and Grand Rapids have in common with New York City? They all struggle to balance their current budgets while covering the increasing cost of generous pension and healthcare packages for retired city workers.

Mary Williams Walsh and Amy Schoenfeld of The New York Times report:

And the problem is not just in New York. Public pension costs are ballooning everywhere, throwing budgets out of whack and raising the question of whether venerable state pension systems are viable.

In fact, the cost of public pensions has been systemically underestimated nationwide for more than two decades, say some analysts. By these estimates, state and local officials have promised $5 trillion worth of benefits while thinking they were committing taxpayers to roughly half that amount.

The use of public money for outsize retirement pay really stings when budgets don’t balance, teachers are being laid off, furloughs are being planned and everything from poison-control centers to Alzheimer’s day care is being cut, as is happening in New York.

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