Data point #1. Metropolitan Transportation Authority executive director Elliot Sander and the authority’s board members attracted more than 600 people to their marathon six-and-a-half-hour fare-hike and service-cut hearing in Manhattan last night. Here’s a piece of information nobody brought up:
When fully phased in, the MTA’s “draconian” service cuts, including the elimination of important bus routes, would save $130 million annually. But pension and health-benefit costs at the MTA’s New York City Transit — the unit that runs subways and buses in the city — are set to rise by the exact same amount of money over the next two years.
What’s the point? The MTA cannot attack its deficits with service cuts, nor can it solve these ever-rising costs solely with new revenue sources. Taken to the ultimate absurdity, in fact, the MTA could end all service, and still face huge out-year deficits, because of the unsustainable pension and health benefits promises that state and city politicians have long made to the authority’s workers.
Data point #2. Same-store sales at robin’s-egg-blue-box luxury retailer Tiffany were down 35 percent in the U.S. during the holiday shopping season. The luxury customer has disappeared.
What do these two points of data have to do with each other? If history is any guide, New York City and State is likely to want that same luxury Tiffany customer — that is, “the rich” — to pay more in taxes over the next few years to help close city, state, and MTA budget gaps. But the customer cutting back on Tiffany purchases is the same person who’s not sure if he can afford to keep his family in high-cost New York anymore.
The bottom line: If Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Paterson, and the rest of them don’t want assets and services at entities like the MTA to fall apart, they’ve got to cut future pension benefits costs and current healthcare costs for municipal employees.
There is no deep-pocketed robin’s-egg-blue taxpayer this time around who is going to save the pols from this reality.