Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday again vetoed a pair of union-backed bills designed to sweeten pensions and discourage use of private contractors by state agencies—a positive signal for his third term.
A bill to roll back part of Cuomo’s 2012 pension reforms for the state’s uniformed court officers (S7704 (Golden)/A9910 (Abbate)) met its fifth veto in as many years. The “Court Officer Special,” restoring retirement with full benefits at age 62 for the affected employees, was one of 11 pension and other benefit sweeteners that would have $53 million in “near term” costs alone, according to the governor’s estimate. “These bills would establish a negative precedent for other employees to seek similar unfunded benefits,” he said in his veto message.
Cuomo also vetoed a bill (S.383/Robach)/A2202 (Bronson)) that would have made it more difficult for agencies to contract with private businesses instead of using state employees—such as members of the Public Employees Federation (PEF), which covers the kind of technical and professional workers most vulnerable to competition from the private-sector. In his veto message, Cuomo affirmed a preference for existing state statute, which lets agencies seek out the “best value” in hiring contractors, rather than looking solely at the cost, and expressed concerns the bill would delay the procurement process.
Although Cuomo had vetoed a similar measure in 2012, his relations with PEF warmed significantly this year as the union went from backing his primary opponent in 2014 to endorsing him for re-election. PEF leaders mobilized members to pressure Cuomo to sign the bill, suggesting even they didn’t know the measure was headed for rejection.
Approving either bill would have made it more difficult for Cuomo to adhere to his self-imposed 2 percent limit on the growth of state operating funds spending, and would have invited lawmakers to serve up even more expensive giveaways.