New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged the state’s mayors to rally their communities in support of his proposal to raise the retirement age for new workers and offer a 401(k)-type alternative to government pension plans.
The measure would save $113 billion for public employers, including New York City, over the next 30 years, Mr. Cuomo said Monday at a meeting of the New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials in Albany. The pension changes have drawn Mr. Cuomo into a battle with the state’s public worker unions and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, a fellow Democrat and the sole trustee of the $140.3 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund.
“If we have this argument in this town, we lose because they control the dialogue,” Mr. Cuomo said, describing Albany as a “company town” run by the unions. “I want to have it in communities all across this state because that’s where people get it, and that’s where people understand the facts and that’s where we will win. But I need you to make it happen.”
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced last week that 12 mayors and 13 county executives representing 15 million residents had joined a coalition to support Mr. Cuomo’s proposed pension changes. Mr. Bloomberg is coming to Albany on Wednesday, the day lawmakers return from a two-week break.
New York’s retirement fund, the third-largest U.S. public pension, was 101.5% funded in 2010, better than any other state, according to an annual study by Bloomberg Rankings. To keep it funded after losses incurred in the financial crisis, the system has increased the payments made by local governments. By 2015, 35% of local government budgets will be consumed by pension costs, up from 3% in 2001, Mr. Cuomo said.
Mr. Cuomo put the pension changes into his budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins April 1. He said last week that if lawmakers send him a spending plan without the measure, he’ll use a so-called budget extender to force the Legislature to choose between shutting the government down or passing his plan. The process is used to keep the government operating when there’s no agreement on the budget.