1:47 pm, 03/15/2012
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State lawmakers were up all night in Albany, and passed another sharp reduction in state worker pension benefits around 7:30 this morning. The vote is part of a Big Ugly: a cute Albany term for a mass of unrelated bills linked together by government leaders in a back room deal. Basically, New York’s Assembly just agreed to slash state worker retirement accounts in exchange for the Governor’s approval of their gerrymandered redistricting plan.
The bill would produce a new retirement benefit tier, Tier 6. Every so often, lawmakers decide to cut (non-lawmaker) public employee benefits. It’s unconstitutional to change the retirement benefits of state employees after they’re hired, though, so they leave those benefits alone and screw the new guys by creating a new tier for new hires. This is legitimized because private sector benefits are always worse and getting worser. Eventually everyone over 65 will be broke and eating cat food. (I’d fire you for editorializing if any of this wasn’t true. -Ed.)
Public employee union leaders, whose job it is to make sure things like this don’t happen, are upset. Civil Service Employees Union President Danny Donohue said, “This deal is about politicians standing with the 1 percent – the wealthiest New Yorkers – to give them a better break while telling nurses, bus drivers, teachers, secretaries, and laborers to put up and shut up.”
New York has 600,000 public employees, and their average pension is $19,151 a year. 76% of pensions are less than $30,000. The retirement system in New York is fully funded. The current “unsustainable” cost increases that the Governor and Mayor Bloomberg cite come from the fact that pension moneys are not stored in a box in Schenectady, but invested in the stock market, which tanked a few years ago. The only way New York’s employee pension costs would be truly unsustainable would be if Wall Street continued to run the economy into a tree again every five years. Perhaps lawmakers concerned about pension sustainability should work on making that not happen. (Getting close here :-( -Ed.)
So now Cuomo has saved New York taxpayers millions of dollars by taking millions of dollars away from librarians and firefighters. Of course, these reductions only affect new hires, so the savings won’t actually materialize for a generation. So the Governor has exploited the illusion of a pension crisis to reduce the retirement benefits of middle class workers in order to save a small fraction of the state budget 30 years from now. Why? You tell us.
Has anybody taken a look at New York Assembly member pension benefits lately? In this economy, we really ought to all be tightening our belts. (You’re fired. -Ed.)