East Fishkill New York State Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor (R,C,I - East Fishkill) is calling on Governor Cuomo to explain how he determined the cost estimate of the Veterans Equality Act he recently vetoed. Cuomo's veto message for the bipartisan bill includes no explanation for how he reached the numbers and lumps the projected cost of the veterans pension buyback program with the costs of four other bills and comes up with an estimated $229 million in short-term costs and $607 million in long-term costs for all five vetoed pension bills.
"Governor Cuomo owes New York's veterans an explanation," said Lalor. "His veto message doesn't explain how he reached such a large estimated cost. He didn't even break out the cost of the Veterans Equality Act from the other four bills. Cuomo also has no explanation as to whether the retirement of senior employees in more expensive pension tiers, to be replaced by junior employees with less costly pension plans, would reduce or eliminate costs. I believe it will, and I'm asking Governor Cuomo to show his work. Cuomo deceptively lumped the veterans pension bill with four other bills to produce his projected cost. We need to see an explanation for his projections and the cost specifically for the veterans pension bill on its own."
Lalor added, "The administration should also provide estimates of the positive financial impact of the Veterans Equality Act, which include higher paid employees in more generous pension tiers retiring sooner and being replaced by newer workers who are in a less generous pension tier. The estimates should also take into account expedited retirements leading to positions that don't have to be filled and the resulting savings to the state and local governments."
Lalor continued, "Even if we accept Governor Cuomo's projections, New York can find the funding to do right by our veterans. New York will receive $200 million as part of a settlement for illegal banking practices with Deutsche Bank and will receive millions more from a settlement with Goldman Sachs. Those funds should be used to cover any cost of the Veterans' Pension Equality Act. The funds are available and won't require a tax increase. Accepting Cuomo's estimated cost for the sake of argument, we can and should fund this program."
The twice vetoed Veterans Equality Act would have allowed veterans from any era to buy back up to three years of service credit in the public employee retirement systems for their military service. Currently, New York only allows veterans who served during specific conflicts to buy back service credit. For instance, Iraq veterans are currently eligible, while Afghanistan veterans are not.
Lalor's previous statement about Cuomo's second veto of the Veterans Equality Act can be found here.