E.J. McMahon E.J. McMahon is a senior fellow for the

E.J. McMahon is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research and its Albany-based Empire Center for New York State Policy. McMahon joined the Manhattan Institute in 2000, and was instrumental in the Center's founding in 2005.

His professional background includes more than 25 years as an Albany-based policy analyst and close observer of New York State government. As chief fiscal advisor to the Assembly Republican Conference in the early 1990s, he drafted a personal income tax reform plan that would become the basis for historic tax cuts enacted under Governor George E. Pataki. He also served as a deputy commissioner in the state Department of Taxation and Finance, vice chancellor of the State University of New York, and research director of the Public Policy Institute of New York State.

A native of Westchester County and graduate of Villanova University, he began his career as a staff writer and columnist for daily newspapers in the lower Hudson Valley and Albany.
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Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned last week that if New York City fails to control unsustainable employee compensation costs, it could find itself trapped in the same "downward cycle" as bankrupt Detroit:

"We are only a short distance from relapsing into decline, if we allow health care and pension benefits to crowd out the investments that make New York City a place where people want to live, work, study and visit."

Give Bloomberg credit for trying to inject a dose of fiscal reality into a mayoral campaign otherwise dominated -- on the Democratic side, at least -- by appeals to special interest groups, occasionally interrupted by fresh evidence of Anthony Weiner's surpassing weirdness.

But while the mayor intended to put his would-be successors on the spot, his speech also provided important reminders of the extent to which the city's bargaining position in ongoing contract negotiations has been hemmed in by Albany.

Bloomberg noted, for example, that state law has forced the city to continue giving pay raises to employees whose most recent contracts expired three or four years ago -- something union leaders invariably gloss over when they demand retroactive pay hikes the city can't afford.

The provision in question, known as the Triborough Amendment, creates similar costs and collective bargaining disadvantages for municipalities and school districts throughout the state. Yet Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made it clear he won't lift a finger to change the law.

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Bloomberg also pointed out that the city has benefited from Gov. David Paterson's 2009 veto of legislation renewing a 33-year-old pension sweetener for city police officers and firefighters. Cuomo had a chance to emulate Paterson this year by refusing to renew an even older "temporary" binding arbitration law that undermines the city's ability to seek contract concessions from its police union. Unfortunately, the governor elected to placate labor -- keeping the arbitration law in place for three more years with only minor tweaks that won't help the city.

By all means, the mayoral candidates should feel pressure to explain what they'll do to stop New York from following Detroit into fiscal perdition. But a year in advance of a gubernatorial election, taxpayers shouldn't let Cuomo off the hook, either.

E.J. McMahon is president of the Empire Center for Public Policy and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.