Cuomo Wants to Roll Back Part of Pension Reform for Police, Firefighters

When it comes to police and firefighters, Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to roll back part of the pension reform he helped push through the state legislature in 2012.

New York City police and firefighter unions are ramping up their fight for higher disability payments, saying those who are permanently injured on the job should get 75 percent of their salary. The governor agrees, saying in a statement that the change in state law needs to be made "as soon as possible."

"It's terrific that the governor now recognizes the risk that New York City poilce officers put themselves at each and every day," said Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch.

This week, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled his plan for disabled officers and firefighters, which keeps the payment at 50 percent of their salary, which was established in a controversial vote by the state legsialture in 2012. The new pension level, known as tier 6, was designed to keep costs down.

"Public contributions to the pension system are already $8.5 billion a year and growing. So it's coming out of taxpayer revenue that could go toward other expenses," said Carol Kellermann of the Citizens Budget Commission.

Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to change the formula to sweeten the benefits, and now Cuomo says he wants to make it even sweeter.

Critics of the governor say what is notable about this is that it is a bit of a policy reversal for him. The governor has said previously that pension costs need to be brought down in the out years, at least at the state level.

Any change to disability payments needs to be made through state legislation.

"I don't know that it means he is rolling anything back," Kellermann said. "At least I hope not."

Some have speculated that this maneuvering is part of the ongoing push and pull between the governor and the mayor. The mayor often asks for legislation from Albany, only to have the governor publicly undermine it.

"Trying, for example, to allow an extension of pension benefits 50 percent higher than what the mayor would like to see might be catnip, politically, for the governor," said David Birdsell of Baruch College. "Of course, he doesn't have to pay for it either."

Others believe the governor is looking to put together a major package of criminal justice reforms before the legislature breaks in June, and Cuomo needs Lynch to work with him.

"We have not had a conversation on that," Lynch said.

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