Bumpy Road Ahead for PAT

The Port Authority’s FY2010 budget projection shows the agency spending $362 million, up from $328 million just two years ago. Not surprisingly, the area of employee benefits has far outstripped any expenditure category, growing 15.6 percent from FY2008 (audited numbers show a $108 million expense) to $128 million this coming year.

Sure, PAT and County officials would be quick to say "well, we would have been much worse off without that contract agreement!" but that is a dubious claim. Union employees are due a 2% increase in January (sandwiched between 3% annual raises) and "pension and healthcare [costs are] projected to continue to exceed the rate of inflation" according to the budget document.

Like the City of Pittsburgh’s legacy cost situation, PAT’s does not look rosy. There is basically a 1 to 1 ratio in active to retired employees; the 2010 pension contribution is expected to grow by $10 million to over $25 million (in FY2005 it was under $5 million), and medical premiums are projected to grow 11.8%.

And as of now budget forecasts show operating deficits of $29 million and $44 million in FY2011 and FY2012. So much for the drink tax and the "tough contract" solving the problem. Now the saving grace will have to be the tolling of Interstate 80, a proposal that got a negative reaction the last time it was proposed.