Union Workers Rally In Albany As Pension Reform Fight Continues
Albany's legislative leaders held their first budget conference meeting on Tuesday, indicating that the state's fiscal plan could be nearly complete, but some sticking points including pension reform could threaten an early budget. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
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A new TV ad from New York Leaders For Pension Reform says there will be layoffs of public employees and higher taxes without the creation of a new pension tier for state workers.
It also says, "Democratic and Republican mayors and county executives from across New York have come together to support Governor [Andrew] Cuomo's pension reform proposal."
Last week, the state AFL-CIO pulled its own ads attacking Cuomo's Tier VI pension plan, but it has since begun running them again.
Meanwhile, the state capitol was flooded Tuesday with public workers opposed to Tier VI.
"We would hope that the governor understands that the working class of New York State voted for this here governor to be our voice here in Albany," said Charles Jenkins of Transport Workers Union Local 100
The most contentious part of the governor's plan is a defined contribution plan, often compared to a 401k, as an option for new hires.
More than 1,000 firefighters held a Tuesday rally outside the capitol to protest Tier VI. They are particularly upset about the defined contribution component, which they don't believe offers enough protections.
"If they want to have a 401k style pension, what they are saying, in effect, is that New York City firefighters and firefighters across the state will pull up to burning buildings and say 'What if? What if I'm killed today? What if I'm severely injured? Who's going to take care of my family?' That's bad for public safety," said Steve Cassidy of the Uniform Firefighters Association.
State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos indicated that there is still room for compromise.
"It seems to be that the movement is away from defined contribution and that there would be some kind of pension reform. I think we are too tied to the words 'Tier VI,'" said Skelos.
Legislative committees and subcommittees will begin considering the budget on Wednesday. Legislative leaders hope to stick to this timetable and potentially have a completed budget by the end of next week, which would be the earliest completed state budget in recent memory.
The state budget is due on April 1.