Updated 03/15/2012 11:31 PM
Marathon Session In Albany Yields Pension Deal
A marathon voting session ended Thursday morning with Democrats in the State Assembly giving Governor Andrew Cuomo what he wanted, passing a major pension reform bill as part of a multi-layered legislative deal that also included new district lines for the state Legislature. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
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On Wednesday night, members of the State Assembly began quietly telling reporters that Governor Andrew Cuomo's pension reform plan, known as Tier VI, was in trouble.
But after an all-night session, the bill passed the Assembly after 7 a.m. on Thursday morning.
Despite the high drama, Cuomo said he was never worried.
"I never heard that the speaker was overly concerned about where the votes were. The way I understood it, it was more a mechanical... some members had gone home to go to sleep or shower, which is not a bad instinct in the middle of the night," said the governor.
The new pension tier was one of the governor's top priorities. It raises the retirement age from 62 to 63 and creates a 401k-style defined contribution option for non-union new hires.
Cuomo also claimed the pension reform will save and local governments, including the city, $80 billion over 30 years.
Union leaders vowed revenge against lawmakers who voted for it.
"We are very unhappy. We are upset with the governor, the Assembly and the Legislature," said Joe McMullen of the Civil Service Employees Association. "This is unbelievable that they did not listen to our members' cries. We wanted this Tier VI voted down and not approved, and we're not happy with it at all."
After the dust had cleared from the all-night session, Cuomo spoke expansively to reporters in his office suite. He acknowledged not getting exactly what he wanted on redistricting, but said with a constitutional amendment to change the process, it will be smoother in 2022.
"It will never happen again. We are going to amend the constitution and there is a statute in place, so the madness stops. That's what I accomplished, the madness stops," said Cuomo.
Nevertheless, many Democrats walked out of the chambers Wednesday night, refused to vote for the redistricting lines and some threatened legal action.
"There's been a disturbing pattern in the State Senate of stifling debate, turning democracy into a game," said State Senator Daniel Squadron of Manhattan and Brooklyn. "We saw it last night again and again with some of the most important issues. The state takes up redistricting every 10 years, it affects every single citizen in this state."
The Legislature also passed a constitutional amendment to legalize gambling statewide, which could bring as many as seven new casinos to the state. Like redistricing, that too will go to the voters in a referendum.
Albany lawmakers also voted to expand the DNA databank to include all crimes and misdemeanors.
The agreements reached early Thursday morning are expected to ease debate over the state budget, which is expected to pass next week.