Buffalo Niagara Partnership Joins Elected Officials in Supporting State Pension Reform

February 2, 2012 Updated Feb 2, 2012 at 1:33 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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Buffalo Niagara Partnership Joins Elected Officials in Supporting State Pension Reform

February 2, 2012 Updated Feb 2, 2012 at 1:33 PM EDT

Buffalo, N.Y. (WKBW release) -- The Committee to Save New York, a statewide coalition of citizens and taxpayers concerned about the economic future of New York State, hosted a press conference Thursday in support of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed Tier VI Pension reform plan. 

“Governor Cuomo has proposed a significant plan to begin to manage the state's out-of-control pension system cost; now it’s time for the Legislature to act on it,” Andrew J. Rudnick, CSNY board member and President & CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership said in a news release. “Employers are looking to governments at all levels to show increased fiscal responsibility, and I think Albany has the chance to do its part with this plan.”

In the 2012 Executive Budget Address, Governor Cuomo outlined a Tier VI Pension Plan that would save the state $123 billion over the next thirty years. The plan would establish a new benefits system for future employees offering them the option to participate in either a traditional, but less generous, plan or a 401-k type program that is more flexible and permits for career growth. No current workers would lose their pensions, and all reforms would only impact pensions for public employees who have not been hired yet.

Heather Briccetti, CSNY board member and President & CEO of the Business Council of New York State said, “At a time when private sector employees are seeing their benefits slashed and municipalities are cutting services, New York’s businesses and taxpayers simply cannot afford to pay for these overly generous benefits programs. Without reforms, school districts and local government will be forced to raise taxes, cut services and eliminate jobs just to pay for escalating pension costs. We can avoid those problems tomorrow with sensible reforms today.”

Taxpayers in the Empire State pay on average $574 each year to help cover the cost of public pensions.  New York’s public pension tax burden is the second most costly in the nation, trailing only Alaska who benefits from rich oil and minerals deposits.

Rudnick added, “Getting New York’s pension costs under control is another step toward making this state, and our region in particular, a more competitive place for business investment and job creation.”

Independent analysis by the Citizens Budget Commission shows the mandatory contributions by the State for public pensions increased 300 percent since 2004, totaling $1.5 billion last year.  By 2014 the State requirement is expected to reach $2 billion- accounting for more than 10 percent of State Operations.  

The Committee to Save New York was founded in 2011, at a time when the State was facing a $10 billion deficit, businesses were fleeing and unemployment was growing.  CSNY is dedicated to restoring fiscal sanity to state government in order to ensure that future generations of New Yorkers will have the opportunity to get a great education, find a good job or start a new business and prosper.

Democratic Mayor Byron Brown said: “Next to Medicaid, pension costs are the most burdensome on local governments. I want to thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership in putting pension reform as a central part of his plan. The new Tier VI pension system for new hires would save the city a quarter million over the next five fiscal years.”

Republican Assemblywoman Jane Corwin said: “The Tier VI proposal is a good first step in reducing pension costs for municipalities in New York State. Local governments and school districts would finally be able to get much needed relief from the State and ultimately save taxpayers money. Also, future employees will have new options and choices when selecting their retirement plan. It’s a “Win, Win.”     

Democratic Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak said: “I am pleased to stand with the Committee to Save New York and I applaud Governor Cuomo for taking the initiative to address the rising cost of state pensions.  As a former town supervisor, I know firsthand the strain pension costs can be on a municipal budget.   New York State needs to find ways to help save taxpayers money.  I support exploring options for a new benefits system for future public employees.”

Republican Assemblyman Ray Walter said: “If we’re going to turn New York’s economy around, we need to deal with the reality that our pension costs are unsustainable. In order to protect not only the benefits due to current public employees, but the litany of vital programs and services we rely on, we need to reduce costs moving forward. That’s why I support Governor Cuomo’s Tier VI pension plan and am committed to working with the Committee to Save New York to provide real reforms that will lead to tax relief for Western New York’s families and businesses.”

Democratic Assemblyman Robin Schimminger said: “Pension costs, as one of the fastest growing expenses for both the State and local governments, have become unsustainable. Enacting this legislation would be a giant step forward in fulfilling the New York State Legislature’s commitment to providing significant relief to local municipalities, school districts, and ultimately the taxpayers of New York.  Today’s difficult economic climate requires that changes to the retirement system must be made now in order to ensure the well-being of our current and future retirees.”

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