Just as turned stomachs were on the verge of recovering from multi-billion dollar bonuses paid out to investment bank employees on the heels of the federal bailout, we now learn that New York State has its own version of excess in the face of empty cupboard. David Kidera, the director of the Authorities Budget Office, has released a list of off-budget authorities that have awarded $6.7 Million in bonuses despite a $9+ Billion revenue gap.
Kidera describes the list as a glimpse since many active authorities have yet to report their extra pay.
Steven Hyde, president of the Genesee County Industrial Development Agency, was awarded $60,000 beyond his salary of $153,000. Three other agency employees split another $20,500. John Andrews, Board Chairman of the Genesee County IDA described the bonuses as incentive pay and noted that no worker earned a bonus in 2009.
In Erie County, EC Medical Center Corporation, Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and other local authorities gave just over $5 million in bonuses to their staff in 2009. Overall some 2,100 employees at six area public authorities collected bonus payments with ECMC staffers topping the list at $4.5 million paid to 1,443 staff people.
The Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority also maintains a performance-pay system. RGRTA paid approximately $209,000 in bonuses to 101 workers last year; the average payment being $2,070. Seven employees received more than $10,000. The largest bonus went to RGRTA chief financial officer, Robert Frye, who received $23,000 on top of a $135,600 salary. Authority CEO Mark Aesch received $33,377 beyond his base pay of $155,000 last year. ECMC spokesman, Tom Quatroche, accounted for much of the extra compensation as back pay earned as part of retroactive union agreements.
The Authorities Budget Office report marks the first time authorities and other quasi-governmental entities have released such disclosures to the public. A 2009 state law intended to rein in the otherwise intangibly complex and under-accounted financial dealings of hundreds of public authorities led to the disclosure. David Kidera, the director of the Authorities Budget Office, noted that his office intends next year to separately list overtime, collective bargaining agreements and bonuses.
Also among the six local authorities reporting, Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority bonuses included a high of $9,017 paid to Executive Director Lawrence M. Meckler, who earned $190,207 in salary.
New York Power Authority, blamed for collapsing a deal that would have brought internet giant Google to Orleans County scheduled last March to pay out $3 Million in bonuses and had requested 12.1% rate hikes over the next two years- a move that was cancelled a year ago.
The Off Budget Public Authorities are a significant factor in New York's out of control budget. These agencies act with little oversight and beyond the scope of the budget process. The borrowing that these agencies engage in has contributed to AT LEAST 40% of current state debt. Although the combined borrowing of these 900 or more agencies is the fastest growing segment of state debt, the quasi-independent nature of these entities not only obscures an accurate accounting of their numbers- their financial practices are cloaked by the same independence.
To truly restore the integrity of state finance, these agencies must be reined in and brought to bear as ON Budget Authorities. They wield the state's credit card, and it is time we deprive them of that luxury.
For a more complete view of bonus recipients: