Voodoo ripoffs, NY Daily News editorial
Sunday, May 18th, 2008
It's long been understood that special interests hold sway in the state Legislature. But it's now stunningly clear the game is absolutely rigged against taxpayers.
It is now documented that lawmakers not only fail to read the bills they vote on - they don't write them, either. They let labor unions do that.
And it is established that a union consultant inserted bogus numbers into bills to conceal how much the measures would cost the public.
This shameless abdication of responsibility takes the breath away. And New York City representatives, including Brooklyn Assemblyman Peter Abbate and state Sen. Marty Golden, are among the blameworthy.
This being an election year, public employee unions are pressing the Legislature for pension sweeteners - more than enough to break the bank, according to Gov. Paterson, Mayor Bloomberg and others.
By law, such bills must include cost estimates. But lawmakers let an actuary, who collects tens of thousands of dollars from unions, come up with the numbers. He is Jonathan Schwartz, and he told The New York Times he lowballs estimates, using a method he called "a step above voodoo."
Analyzing an early retirement plan for members of District Council 37, Schwartz ludicrously found that it would cost New York City nary a penny - when the city's actuary reliably put the real cost at $88 million a year.
"I got a little carried away," said Schwartz, a former city official who lost his job after testifying falsely in a pension lawsuit.
Confronted with the fraud, Assembly sponsor Abbate confessed to being a puppet. "They drew up the bill; they went to Jonathan Schwartz," he said of DC 37. "We assume he comes up with the real number." Senate sponsor Golden said he didn't know Schwartz was a union operative.
After brushing off the disclosures, Speaker Sheldon Silver said the Assembly would freeze the legislation pending new cost estimates. But, regardless of those estimates, this is not the year to load the city and local governments with new pension costs.
Paterson appears to recognize this truth. He should veto the entire raft of pension legislation for the benefit of taxpayers, who now know why spending is so out of control in New York.