While the Legislature struggles to reach final agreement on yet another budget that is sure to spend more than the state can afford, a bit of good news for New York taxpayers can be found on the last page of today’s report from Governors David Paterson’s Task Force on Public Retiree Health Insurance.

The task force said it was “unable to reach consensus” on whether to support legislation that would make it much more difficult for counties and municipalities to change health care benefits for their retired employees.  In other words, public employee unions were unable to turn the 16 – 13-member panel into a vehicle for gaining gubernatorial support of a bill that would effectively lock in tens of billions of dollars in unfunded retiree health care liabilities across the state.  The report also recommends creation of a “standing” (i.e., permanent) task force to continue studying the issue.

Background: Since 1994, based in part on recommendations of another gubernatorial task force, New York school districts have not been allowed to make any change in retiree health benefits that is not negotiated with the unions representing their current employees.  This prohibition was first imposed in a temporary bill that was re-enacted annually until last year, when Paterson unwisely agreed to a provision making it permanent in exchange for a very modest tweak of pension benefits for teachers.  Citing the school district precedent, unions representing other groups of employees had been seeking a similar law for years, only to see it vetoed by Governors George Pataki, Eliot Spitzer and Paterson.  However, Paterson’s veto message was coupled with a promise to create a task force to study the issue — a promise he kept last March.

The 16- 13-member task force included three representatives of county, town and municipal organizations, five  Paterson administration officials appointees and a Paterson-appointed chair, Richard Berman, plus a representative of the state comptroller.  Since Paterson controlled the swing votes, the final result might be taken as a sign that the governor will veto the bill again if it is passed again this year.  Meanwhile, union and retiree representatives filed dissenting memos indicating they aren’t about to give up their fight.

Most of the task force report is taken up with technical recommendations for streamlining and improving coverage–none of which, on first glance, seem to add anything to tax-funded expenses.

About the Author

E.J. McMahon

Edmund J. McMahon is Empire Center's founder and a senior fellow.

Read more by E.J. McMahon

You may also like

New York’s Hospital Industry Ranks Near the Bottom of Two Quality Report Cards

New York's hospitals remain near the bottom of two quality report cards. The state's hospitals received the lowest rate of any state except Nevada and DC. Read More

As a Supreme Court Ruling Loomed, Cuomo Bent His Own Rules on COVID ‘Clusters’

In the midst of the constitutional showdown over his pandemic policies, Governor Cuomo made changes to a disputed Brooklyn 'cluster zone' that seemed to contradict his own declared guidelines. Read More

Thanks to Unions, NYC’s School Reopening Deal Was Costly and Educationally Hazardous

New York City schools reopened this fall under terms dictated by the city's teacher and principal unions. Now, as city schools close -- once more at the unions' behest -- the city is left with thousands of extra teachers hi Read More

De Blasio’s (Apparent) Good Move Dissolves Into Phony “Savings”

Late Thursday, as hailed in this space, Mayor de Blasio finally made a decisive move—or at least seemed to make a move—in the direction of actually saving some money on labor costs by getting tough with a powerful (and powerfully self-entitled) municipal union. Read More

Cahill Charges Are An Indictment Of Cuomo’s Policies

Yesterday’s indictment of the state’s top construction union official on federal corruption charges raises a big question: if private companies are paying bribes to avoid having to work with certain construction unions, why is Governor Cuomo insisting that the state keep doing it? Read More

Cuomo’s ‘Reinvent Policing’ Order Dodges Confrontation with Police Unions

Governor Cuomo has ordered local governments to “reinvent” their police departments or risk losing state and federal funding, but the back-up guidance from Cuomo's office sets up an arduous process that likely will conflict with other parts of state law. To put it plainly, the guidance shows the state’s “New York Tough” governor won’t take on its police unions. Read More

New York Has Widened Its Lead in Per-Capita Spending on Medicaid

New York's per-capita Medicaid spending soared to more than double the nationwide rate in 2018, widening its gap with the other 49 states. Read More

Lawmakers Look To Dump More Public Cash On Teamsters

State lawmakers this week moved to make public construction more expensive in a bid to steer work to one of New York’s struggling construction unions. Read More


Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.


Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100

General Inquiries: Info@EmpireCenter.org

Press Inquiries: Press@EmpireCenter.org


The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.

Empire Center Logo Enjoying our work? Sign up for email alerts on our latest news and research.
Together, we can make New York a better place to live and work!