The Citizens Budget Commission hosted Deputy Mayor Bob Steel this morning for a pension-fix presentation.

Despite some new bells’n’whistles, the city’s pension proposal is still the same: ask Gov. Cuomo to raise the retirement age to 65 for non-uniformed workers, require 6 percent pension contributions from everyone, and eliminate overtime from pension considerations for everyone, too.

The city still wants control, too, to negotiate its own pensions with its unions, rather than rely on Albany to set pension law, although Steel said lack of such control wouldn’t be a deal-breaker in the mayor’s support for state pension reform.

Problem is, one of the new bells (or whistles) is a distraction.

Steel noted that every extra one percent return for the pension fund annually saves the city $1 billion. To that end, the city wants to improve the “risk adjusted return of the fund,” getting a change in the “basket clause” from Albany that would allow the city’s pension funds to invest more assets in international equities and the like (he didn’t mention alternative investments, which is good).

Noting that New York is one of the world’s “great financial capitals, if there’s one thing we have an abundance of, it’s investment expertise,” Steel noted.

Maybe. But a lot of people already have a hard time grasping the necessity for big changes to public pension benefits in New York City. It’s not a good idea, then, to give people a new hope, even obliquely, that superior asset management can solve even part of the problem.

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