New York Really Needs Public Campaign Financing

In April, Gov. David Paterson shook off pressure to create a system of public financing of campaigns, claiming that there's just no money in the budget for it. Two recent examples of questionable fiscal management might shed light on why....

June 2, 2008

From Newsday Op-ed, June 2, 2008 

In April, Gov. David Paterson shook off pressure to create a system of public financing of campaigns, claiming that there's just no money in the budget for it.

Two recent examples of questionable fiscal management might shed light on why.

Last month, we learned that legislators have been basing their assumptions about the cost of certain pension legislation on the estimates of Jonathan Schwartz, an actuary employed by unions whose membership would benefit from the bills.

In fact, Schwartz has provided fiscal analyses for hundreds of bills relating to New York City pension benefits, and his conflict of interest was exposed only after New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration put the latest bill's price tag at $200 million per year. Schwartz's estimate had been $200 million less than the city's—that is, $0—even though the bill would have made many municipal employees eligible for early retirement benefits.

Notably, Assemb. Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) has halted action on all bills evaluated by Schwartz, and the office of Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Brunswick) says the Senate will consider a requirement that each fiscal note accompanying a bill disclose the source of the analysis. But neither leader has made a commitment to independent fiscal review for every bill coming out of Albany.

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