New York Pension Mystery Unresolved

State budget crisis.org, the Ravitch/Volker group, has just released its report on New York State's financial situation. Among the findings (p. 28) is yet another analysis showing the New York State pension plans, which also cover local employees outside NYC, are among the best funded in the country, with the NYC plans among the worst -- worse than New Jersey. Even though NYC taxpayers have paid far more into the plans over the decades as a percent of employee wages, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The report is a disappointment, in that it doesn't explain this. No one else had either. And the text is almost exclusively about the state plans, not the city plans. How taxpayer contribution levels fell to zero around 2000, how they are now soaring (to a level far below NYC but they don't say so), etc.

According to data cited by the report, New York City teacher's pension plan 55.0% funded, the state teacher plan 101.8% funded. The city's general retirement plan for most workers 64.2% funded, the corresponding state plan 95.2% funded. The state plan for police and fire is 97.2% funded; the city's police and fire plans were not included but other analyses have found they are nearly as underfunded as the city's teacher's plan.

Why are we in such a hole, and having to slash services more and raise taxes higher, that parts of the state with pension plans covered by the same state legislature -- despite paying more in the past? No one will answer that question.