Why New York can't afford enough workers to clean up the snow 

New York city's sanitation department is under criminal investigation for possibly staging a work slowdown during last week's big snow storm. Over at City Journal, Nicole Gelinas reports some eye-opening details on why the city's snow removal agency is so corrupt and incapable:

If money could melt snow, Mayor Bloomberg would be basking in victory over the storm. When he took office in 2002, Gotham spent $1.3 billion annually on the Department of Sanitation. Today, the city spends more than $2.2 billion on “New York’s Strongest.” That increase during Bloomberg’s tenure was almost three and a half times the inflation rate. It follows that we should have a sanitation army well equipped to clean the white stuff up fast. Not quite. Today’s budgeted sanitation force—from supervisors to garbage collectors—is 392 people smaller than it was nine years ago, a 4 percent decline even as population is up. And the department is shrinking further, as Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith knocks 200 people off the rolls to save $21 million by moving supervisors into front-line jobs.

So where has the city’s swelling sanitation budget gone? Not into better services but into workers’ health care and pensions, as well as borrowing to fund infrastructure, which would otherwise be unaffordable because of those sky-high benefits. Taxpayers now spend $144,000 on salary and benefits for each sanitation worker, up from $79,000 nearly a decade ago. Nine years ago, taxpayers contributed about $10.5 million annually to support sanitation pensions; this year, they’ll cost $240 million—a more than twentyfold increase (the final number may be lower, though, as some changes to the pension funds, which push up contribution rates, may not go into effect until next year).

As for sanitation debt, it has grown from $119.6 million in 2002 to $265 million today.

The whole thing is a case study in public sector unions and mismanagement. And make sure you check City Journal regularly -- they've done terrific work covering the public sector union crisis.

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