Editorial: Mayoral candidates already passing the buck
Several major mayoral candidates sounded like they had a quick case of the Ralph Kramden humina-huminas when asked at a Queens forum last week how they might settle a welter of pending public-employee contracts with the city.
Former City Comptroller Bill Thompson lashed out at Mayor Michael Bloomberg as "irresponsible" for not wrapping up the labor deals before his mayoralty ends. Thompson said that if he's elected, he'll sit down with the unions, go over the books, and see what's possible.
Public Advocate Bill De Blasio was even more worked up. He said the mayor "did something horrible" by not settling the contracts. So what would De Blasio do? Umm . . . well, you can't negotiate contracts in the media, he said.
City Comptroller John Liu offered the mayor a business tip: Labor costs must be negotiated first, Liu said, not left to successors: "That's Management 101."
Thanks for the insight, guys. If these candidates have mentioned pension or health care concessions in the past, they weren't emphasizing them here. In truth, the city's largest unions -- such as the United Federation of Teachers -- have been waiting for Bloomberg to leave office at the end of the year before they strike a deal.
Billions of dollars are at stake. Everyone from school custodians to sewage treatment personnel is working without a contract now. Public employee unions want across-the-board retroactive pay hikes in their new contracts. Bloomberg says that would cost the city $7.8 billion.
The unions say members have been working under contracts that expired three or more years ago. But so what? Many workaday voters have seen their expenses grow and paychecks shrink. Nobody's talking about repaying them.
If the unions want a major payday, here's an idea: Workers should pay for part of their health care premiums. More than 90 percent of city workers make no contribution. Federal workers typically pay around 25 percent. Meanwhile, candidates should stop dodging honest talk about tough issues. You want to be New York's next mayor? Tell us exactly what you'll do. The buck will stop with you.