Governor Andrew Cuomo warns that the pension system as it is now is bankrupting the state, but there’s growing opposition to his plan to create a less-generous tier for future public workers. Capital Tonight's Nick Reisman has the details.
ALBANY, N.Y. -- "There must be pension reform in the budget," said Governor Cuomo.
As state lawmakers are out of Albany this week, Governor Cuomo is applying public pressure to achieve an overhaul of the state's pension system. Cuomo cast his efforts to establish a new, less generous pension tier for future public employees is a fight between unnamed special interests and taxpayers.
Cuomo said, "Pension reform goes right at the heart of the beast, in my opinion. This is the central power struggle of Albany."
Adding Tier Six to the state's retirement plan would save an estimated $83 billion over 30 years, according to the governor's office. At the heart is an option that would allow workers to take a defined contribution plan similar to what is offered to state university employees. The plan is in the governor's $132.5 billion budget proposal and if lawmakers don't agree to it, he vows to put his own pension overhaul plan into an emergency spending bill. Failure to pass that bill would trigger a government shutdown -- an unsavory option for lawmakers.
Cuomo said, "Even the extender doesn't take you to the shutdown of government. They would have to shut it down. Am I willing to go extenders? Yes."
The governor has said he's virtually alone in his support for Tier Six. The most vocal elected opponent of Tier Six has been Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.
He said, "The comptroller's office is to me the independent voice to look out for taxpayers' interests and the issues we raised about oversight, proper checks and balances, transparency, it all speaks to the accountability agenda which I know the public expects the comptroller's office to be at the forefront of."
But the state's wealthy and well-funded business lobby, emboldened by a fiscally conservative governor, have released position papers and ads in favor of Tier Six. Public sector labor groups, meanwhile, plan to step up their lobbying efforts in opposition.
PEF President Ken Brynien said, "Everybody pretty much assumes the budget is going to be done by the end of March, so March is the month that we're going to put on all our efforts to get this changed."
The budget is due by April 1, the start of the fiscal year. Legislative leaders in both the state Senate and Assembly hope to finalize the spending plan by March 22.