PolitickerNY reports that the State Senate, which must approve Gov. Paterson’s pick for MTA chief, Jay Walder, will hold hearings this fall that focus on Walder’s reputed pay package.

Walder’s package, in addition to nearly half-million annually in salary and housing allowance, includes an $850,000 golden parachute if a governor asks him to leave early in his six-year term. The parachute gradually shrinks to $350,000 as the term progresses.

Technically, the MTA board sets Walder’s pay, but the State Senate could refuse to confirm him if it doesn’t like the package.

The State Senate and Gov. Paterson have only themselves to blame that Walder can plausibly ask for such a generous package. All Walder is doing is monetizing New York State’s increasingly untenabe political dysfunction.

After all, it’s hardly fair from Walder’s perspective if he moves himself and his family from London, where he’s worked for the past decade, first at London’s transit system and then at the McKinsey consultancy, only to find himself unwelcome if Gov. Paterson loses next year’s election or decides not to run.

And even if Walder is the biggest transit genius in the world, that’s a real risk. It is quite likely that if someone else does take the governorship next fall, that person is going to want to clean house, and anyone associated with Paterson will be out.

Of course, that risk is why the MTA chairman gets a six-year term in the first place — to insulate him from political pressure so that he can make hard decisions in the taxpayers’ and riders’ interest about things like union pay and benefits.

If the MTA approves this pay package for Walder, it shows how little board members think of that six-year insulation, making one wonder why we have it in the first place.

If the six-year term for the newly combined post of MTA chairman and CEO is a sham, all it does is provide the governor with handy cover for the decisions that the MTA makes under its own supposed but nonexistent political independence.

And notwithstanding the fact that Walder is acting rationally, it’s not clear that his pay package would be fair to the taxpayers and MTA riders.

Why should we pay (additional) hundreds of thousands of dollars for political infighting and subterfuge because Albany can’t get its act together?

This half of FW cannot remember any other instance in which a state appointee (or a federal one, for that matter) won financial protection against the political risk that is a fact of life in the world of political appointments.

It is not quite right for Walder to indemnify his risk through a clever structured-finance package, while the rest of us are stuck.


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