Some Albany legislators never learn

by E.J. McMahon |  | NY Torch

Oblivious to exploding pension costs and the looming iceberg of retiree health care obligations, Albany lawmakers have introduced 55 bills that would “enhance the pension benefits of New York’s public employees, grant costly protections to retiree health insurance benefits, and make fiscally imprudent changes to the funding of the State’s pension system,” according to the Citizens Budget Commission, which issued its Benefit Sweetener Scorecard today.

In addition to the teacher pension borrowing scheme highlighted here last week, the bills include a pair of proposals that would roll back pension benefits to the rich, pre-1973 Tier 1 level, and another that would extend the option of early retirement without unreduced benefits to all employees who are at least 55 and have at least 25 years of service. Lawmakers have also introduced a half dozen measures that would make it harder for government employers to save money on retiree health benefits, by requiring any changes to first be negotiated with unions representing active workers.

Most of the bills are evergreens sponsored by Assembly Democrats, led by Peter Abbate, the staunch union ally who chairs the Civil Service Committee. But GOP members aren’t absent from the parade. Seven Assembly Republicans have sponsored what amounts to a temporary freeze of retiree health benefits. Three other Assembly Republicans are listed as “multi-sponsors” of a permanent freeze on retiree health benefits, which also has been introduced by a Senate Republican, Andrew Lanza.

Sen. Jack Martins, the Republican chair of the Local Government Committee in his house, has introduced a “same as” version of an Abbate bill permanently blocking changes to public-sector retiree health care deals unless the same change is made in health insurance for active employees.  And a trio of Senate Republicans — Martin Golden, Kenneth Lavalle and George Maziarz — have a introduced a one-house bill that would prevent public or private employers from making changes to a retiree benefits in employee “welfare plans.”

- E.J. McMahon is the President at the Empire Center for Public Policy.