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Public Pensions - Averting New York’s Looming Tax Catastrophe

Public Pensions - Averting New York’s Looming Tax Catastrophe

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"Public Pension: Averting New York's Looming Tax Catastrophe"

By New York State Comptroller Candidate Harry J. Wilson
"Public Pension: Averting New York's Looming Tax Catastrophe"

By New York State Comptroller Candidate Harry J. Wilson

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Published by: William F. B. O'Reilly on Sep 01, 2010
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05/12/2014

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September 2, 2010
PUBLIC PENSIONS: AVE
RTING NEW YORK’S LOO
MING TAXCATASTROPHE
Taxpayers for Wilson19. W. 44th Street, 1401New York, NY 10036(212) 221-7809www.wilsonfornewyork.com
1
Public Pensions: Averting New York’s Looming Tax Catastrophe
 
“I have a speci
al word for my fellow Democrats: one cannot both be a progressive and beopposed to pension reform. The math is irrefutable that the losers from excessive and unfundedpensions
are precisely the programs progressive Democrats tend to applaud.”
 -
 
David Crane, California pension advisor
There are lots of people who would like to think that because times have changed someone elsewill be paying for this problem. There is no one left to pay for this problem. We have got to fixit ourselves, and everyone has to make a contribution to it.
 -
 
Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey
“Why use an 8% assumption?
Because if you used more conservative numbers, as the academicstudies suggest, you would have to make larger current contributions to the pensions, when state
and local governments and schools are already in fiscal trouble…This is going to end in tears fo
rmany states and municipalities. I mean real tears. Pension funding in some states will berequired by law to consume 25-30% or more of tax revenues. That is going to mean much
higher taxes or reduced services.”
 -
 
John Mauldin, president of the investment advisory firm Millennium Wave Advisors,LLC.
 
September 2, 2010
PUBLIC PENSIONS: AVE
RTING NEW YORK’S LOO
MING TAXCATASTROPHE
Taxpayers for Wilson19. W. 44th Street, 1401New York, NY 10036(212) 221-7809www.wilsonfornewyork.com
2
Table of Contents
 
....................................................... 1I. Executive Summary ............................................................................................................................... 3II. Introduction: Why Is This A Critically Important Issue Facing Our State And Our Nation? .................. 5III. How Bad Can It Be, And How Did We Get Here? .................................................................................. 7IV. Brief Primer On the New York State Pension System ........................................................................ 12V. Rules Matter: Politicians Take Advantage of Public Pension Accounting Rules To Hide Deficits ....... 22VI. Private Sector Standards: Not Perfect, But More Honest And Realistic ............................................ 25VII. What Does It All Mean? How Big is Our Problem? ........................................................................... 35VIII. The Right Way to Manage the CRF .................................................................................................. 37IX. Anticipating the Critiques .................................................................................................................. 43X. Key Takeaways .................................................................................................................................... 47XI. Conclusion ......................................................................................................................................... 52
 
September 2, 2010
PUBLIC PENSIONS: AVE
RTING NEW YORK’S LOO
MING TAXCATASTROPHE
Taxpayers for Wilson19. W. 44th Street, 1401New York, NY 10036(212) 221-7809www.wilsonfornewyork.com
3
I.
 
Executive Summary
This paper examines the looming public pension catastrophe approaching our nation generallyand New York State specifically. There are several key points we will consider in detail:
 
The coming public pension crisis is the largest financial problem our nation faces at thestate level, and the cost to taxpayers will dwarf that from TARP, the Fannie Mae/FreddieMac bailout, the S&L bailout or any other recent American financial crisis.
 
The magnitude and nature of the pension crisis is disguised by the application of lax government accounting standards that allow for accounting deceptions and donot stand up to private sector scrutiny.
 
An honest accounting of pension assets and liabilities would reveal a substantialunderfunding in
 New York State’s
Common Retirement Fund of anywhere from $30billion to $80 billion.
 
The current New York State
Comptroller’s pension borrowing
legislation willfurther increase the level of underfunding.
 
Under the current Comptroller,
the Fund’s
investment returns have been significantlybelow the median of other comparable public pension funds for the last year, the last twoyears and the last three years and have thus further exacerbated
 New York’s
pensionshortfall.
 
T
he Fund’s cumulative underperformance, relative to
its 8% target investmentreturn over the past 3 years, totals nearly $50 billion.
 
Pension promises to state and local government workers and retirees are guaranteed bylaw, legal precedent or, in some cases like New York, state constitutions.
1
Ultimately,these shortfalls are borne by unsuspecting taxpayers who are on the hook for highertaxes.
 
In dealing with New York’s
pension underfunding, the State and its leadership mustadhere to three bedrock principles:
 
The true extent of our shortfall must be made clear through an honest accounting.
 
New Yorkers are already the most heavily taxed people in the nation and cannotafford additional taxes, so increased taxes cannot be a part of any solution
 
The benefits of N
ew York’s government
workers, retirees and their beneficiariesare to be provided for in full. They have earned these benefits as part of theirnegotiated compensation on the basis of a contract that must be honored.
1
For details by state, see Morrison and Foerster LLP and Greenebaum Doll and McDonald PLLC, "Index by States:Extent of Protection of Pension Interests." 25 Sept. 2007. Available at<http://finance.ky.gov/NR/rdonlyres/275A2978-5DDE-4138-A7F5-AF02D17D7F97/0/Statebystatememo10.pdf > 

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