With Deficits Looming, the Push Is on for Pension Reform. Big Time.
Setting aside the issue of a recall, could Tuesday’s vote in Wisconsin – clearly a rebuke to organized labor -- be a harbinger for pension reform in New York State?
Governor Scott Walker casts his vote. Photo Credit: Associated Press
Here in New York, Governor Cuomo is seeking pension reform to help close looming budget gaps while maintaining essential services. According to the Pew Research Center, New York and other state governments across the country owe more than $1 trillion to public pension and other benefits – a hefty amount and tough to pay, especially as we're still mired in recessionary doldrums.
Walker’s victory in Wisconsin may give others courage in places where union support is especially strong to aggressively seek to address budgetary shortfalls, just as Governor Walker did, as revenue continues to shrink and raising taxes seems to be a political no-no.
As the Westchester County Association stated previously, New York State needs pension reform. We have the second highest pension burden in the nation. New Yorkers pay $650 a year in taxes for public employee pensions, more than twice the national average. From 2002 to 2011, the total pension bill for New York rose $1.7 billion to $12.5 billion -- a whopping 630% increase! Governor Cuomo is seeking to save over $100 billion over 30 years by adding “Tier VI” to the NYS pension system.
“The Tier VI plan will bring future savings to business owners and taxpayers, and provide fiscal stability for our state and local governments,” says Amy Allen, managing director of Advocacy and International Business at the WCA, which believes the current public employee benefits system overburdens local government and school districts. “The Tier VI pension plan is but the first step in the mandate relief battle and does little to alleviate current burdens. Local governments and school districts, which must operate within the recently passed 2% property tax cap, are suffocated by burgeoning pension costs" Allen notes.
And then there's the question of addressing the 30-year old Triborough Amendment to the Taylor Law, that requires public employers (like New York State) to keep in place all elements (like automatic pay increases) of a union contract that's expired, even after it's expired.
Read more about Tuesday’s historic election and its implications in The Wall Street Journal and Newsday. As more commentary develops in the next few days, we will add links to this article. Stay posted!