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Pols pitch pricey pension sweetener!! 2-20-12
Posted On: Feb 53, 2012
Updated: Mon., Feb. 20, 2012, 10:57 AM home

Pols pitch pricey pension sweetener

Last Updated: 10:57 AM, February 20, 2012

Posted: 12:20 AM, February 20, 2012

Bowing to union pressure, legislators are proposing a sweeping pension bill that would allow thousands of state and city government workers to retire early with full benefits — at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars to taxpayers, The Post has learned.

The early-retirement push clashes with Gov. Cuomo’s drive — backed by Mayor Bloomberg — to scale back pension costs.

The Assembly measure would allow public employees, including city teachers, to retire with full benefits at age 55 with 25 years of service.

Many public employees have to work at least 27 or 30 years before earning full retirement benefits. Others have to work until age 62 to qualify.

The bill’s sponsors admitted it would increase the state pension system’s cost by $167 million and boost city pension costs by tens of millions of dollars.

“I want to keep the idea of early retirement out there for discussion,” said Assemblyman Jack McEneny (D-Albany).

McEneny said the unions — particularly the Civil Service Employees Association and the Public Employees Federation, the two largest state government-worker unions — had urged him to champion the bill.

Other sponsors of the bill include Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari (D-Cohoes) and members Keith Wright (D-Manhattan), Michael Cusick (D-SI), Nick Perry (D-Brooklyn) and Jeff Dinowitz and Carl Heastie, both Bronx Democrats.

Bloomberg and budget watchdogs slammed the massive pension sweetener as irresponsible.

“With pension costs crippling localities across the state, we should be looking at ways to reform the system, not for ways to balloon costs further,” said Mark Botnick, the mayor’s Albany lobbyist.

Said Maria Doulis, a researcher at the business-backed Citizens Budget Commission, “This bill is going in the opposite direction of what needs to happen to make pensions more affordable.”

Doulis said the bill, if approved, would undo pension changes that went into effect in 2010 to lessen costs.

McEneny said he opposes Cuomo’s pension proposal, which would offer a new 401(k)-style “defined contribution” retirement plan and a scaled-back traditional program. It would require newly hired workers to contribute more to their pensions and retire with full benefits later, at age 65.

The governor claimed the changes would save taxpayers $113 billion over 30 years.

But McEneny — who represents a capital-area district filled with public employees — claimed that the unions have not been brought into the discussions and that it’s too soon to impose more cuts after changes were implemented just two years ago.

He even held out hope that a version of his early-retirement bill could be part of a compromise in order to win union support for any pension give-backs.

“It could be,” McEneny said. “The early-retirement bill could be modified as part of a package on pension reform. If the pension system is tightened any more than it is now, there could be an early-retirement component.”


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