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.