The “March Lion” Redux..

As I talked about yesterday, the debate regarding substantial pension reform was starting to escalate.  Perhaps I should have waited a day because the pot appears to be boiling over.

This morning brought news that both the Senate and Assembly will pass their respective one-house budgets next week without incorporating real pension reform.  Yesterday, I and some of my partners in Let NY Work, sent a letter to both legislative leaders urging them to follow Governor Cuomo’s lead and incorporate Tier VI into their fiscal plans.

It appears the position small business owners and a majority of taxpayers across the state is falling on deaf ears.  Earlier today, I issued a statement responding to what I deem to be a failure of the legislature and reaffirm NFIB/NY’s commitment to helping small business owners, communities and taxpayers have more financial freedom and flexibility both today and in the future.

The full text of the statement is below.

 

Small Business Blasts Legislature for Ducking Pension Reform


 

Albany (March 8, 2012) – Reports today that the Legislative Leaders have omitted pension reform from their respective budget proposals is a clear indication that there is both a serious disconnect from the needs of a majority of New Yorkers and lack of interest in tackling the major issues our communities and businesses are facing, said the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) today.

“Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have repeated the call for serious mandate relief for months, and I am deeply disappointed that neither Speaker Silver nor Majority Leader Skelos took this opportunity to support the Governor’s call for pension reform,” said a deeply frustrated Mike Durant, state director for NFIB.

Durant reacted to news this morning that Democrats in the Assembly and Republicans in the Senate have each decided to pass a state budget that does not include Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Tier VI pension reform plan.  Under the proposal, which would save taxpayers $113 billion dollars over the next thirty years, future state employees would have the option of choosing an investment-style defined contribution retirement plan, similar to those that dominate the private sector.

“No one in the system now would have been affected, and no one who enters the system in the future would be forced into the new program,” said Durant.  “The goal is to simply give people a choice so that we can start to move away from the completely unaffordable, completely unrealistic pension system that is causing enormous fiscal strain on our communities and forcing taxpayers to carry an unsustainable load.”

Business groups have supported the reform enthusiastically because it brings government worker benefits into line with the benefits that private sector taxpayers receive, and because it would reduce costs over the long term.

“Without reform, the pension system is going to crowd out everything else in the state and local budgets.  Governments will be forced to make massive cuts in both jobs and basic services as well as impose massive tax increases just so they can pay their ballooning pension obligations,” explained Durant.

He said that the bipartisan unwillingness in the Legislature to tackle pension reform shows who really calls the tune in Albany.

“Labor has drawn a line in the sand to protect the gold-plated benefits for workers have yet to even be employed and the legislators in both parties are afraid to cross that line,” said Durant.  “This is very disheartening because it proves that when push comes to shove, politicians in both parties are still putting the special interests ahead of the interest of taxpayers and small businesses.”

Durant noted that recent statewide polling shows that a strong majority of New Yorkers, including union households, support government pension reform.

“There is a fundamental unfairness of a government pension system that very few taxpayers can afford,” said Durant.  “There should be bipartisan support for this in the Legislature, but instead there is bipartisan obedience to the government unions.”

For more information about NFIB, please visit www.nfib.com.

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About Mike Durant

Mike Durant was named New York State Director of NFIB in May 2011. Prior to joining NFIB as the Assistant State Director in May 2010, Durant began his career in the New York Senate working in the Office of Member Services. From there, he served in a number of positions during former New York Governor George E. Pataki’s administration. As a Research Specialist in the New York State Office of Demographic Policy, Mike was responsible for drafting a redistricting proposal for Governor Pataki. In addition, Mike served as a Research Specialist for the Empire State Development Corporation, as well as the Associate Commissioner of Human Resource Management with the New York Department of Labor. Durant also spent four years working at the Questar III BOCES as a specialist focusing on the complex formulas that drive aid to school districts across the state while also taking a lead role in the state legislative/budget process as it related to education policy. These past positions have given Mike a deep understanding of the complex political economics of the State of New York. Active in the community, Durant has served on a number of boards in both the village of Ballston Spa and Town of Milton. Durant received his bachelor’s degree from Siena College in Loudonville, New York and resides in Ballston Spa with his wife and two children.
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