Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R,C,I-Smithtown) recently spoke out against the MTA payroll tax and called on the financially troubled mass transit agency to submit to a forensic audit in order to prevent future taxpayer-funded bailouts. Fitzpatrick, sponsor of the Assemblys most rigorous public pension reform legislation, demanded that any audit address the costly practice of pension spiking. Spiking, or pension padding, refers to a practice by some state and local government workers in which the employee boosts his salary during the final years of employment to artificially inflate a lifetime retirement payout. Pension spiking costs each Empire State resident $486 a year, the highest in the nation.
The announcement by the state comptrollers office that an audit of the mass transit agency has been in the works for over a year, with no findings yet made public, should concern Long Island taxpayers who continue to overpay for a government monopoly whose services they rarely use, said Fitzpatrick, noting the letter that Thomas DiNapolis office distributed five minutes before the Monday, April 26, Albany press conference.
Furthermore, it is my hope that pension spiking by political appointees and other government employees is one of the issues on Comptroller DiNapolis radar. Pension costs are spiraling out of control because of a lack of incentives in Albany to be financially responsible.
A comprehensive plan will not emerge to deal with the MTAs broken finances until real reform, including repeal of the onerous payroll tax on nonprofits and businesses, and reining in patronage hirings and the resultant pension spiking, replaces empty promises.
A forensic audit is a good start; to get the MTA back on track will require reducing the heavy burden on Long Islands taxpayers as well as the New York state governments appetite for endless bailouts.