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Wrestling Retirement Costs

April 2011

3/12 update: Watch a discussion on how the City can use pension funds to build infrastructure, earn revenue, and create jobs>>

Doing nothing about escalating pension and health care costs for public workers is not an option. These crushing obligations are making headlines around the country and New York is no exception.

In 2010, they cost the state $6.6 billion, up 445 percent from 10 years ago, and accounting for a whopping tenth of the City budget. If nothing is done to control the growth of these costs, they could gobble up money the City needs for other vital programs. “There is a need for honest, sober, and respectful discussion about the reforms needed to keep our retirement systems and city strong,” says Bill de Blasio, Public Advocate for New York City. “As these costs grow, there is less money to spend on everything else the City pays for.”

As both the watchdog of City services, and a board member of New York City Employees’ Retirement System, which manages over $40 billion in retirement assets for City workers, de Blasio has made controlling these costs a top priority. A grant of $100,000 to the Fund for Public Advocacy is helping the office research and advocate solutions in the best interests of New Yorkers. Leaders from government agencies, other cities, organized labor, business, and academia will assemble for a series of roundtable discussions focused on improving investment strategies, managing demands and expectations for pension increases, and reining in runaway health care costs. “The goal,” says de Blasio, “is to get the best ideas on the table, develop a menu of options, and create a road map for future actions.”

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