Politicians’ Pension Proposals Drive Up Costs, Undo Reform

55 pension ‘sweeteners,’ others introduced as legislation this year

Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R,C,I-Smithtown) today condemned the flurry of costly pension-related legislation introduced in the Legislature this year. According to news sources, 55 separate pension “sweeteners” – and benefit enhancements - have been introduced by members of the legislature eager to serve special interests across the state.

“The rising cost of pensions is not only threatening the solvency of towns, counties, and school districts around New York, but the state itself,” said Fitzpatrick. “We are looking at a political class that is clearly ignorant of the tremendous burdens faced by New York State taxpayers who must pay a growing share of these gold-plated retirement benefits. Now, 55 new bills look to sweeten the deal for those already in this generous pension system.”

Pensions and employee health benefits are becoming the fastest-growing costs for schools, towns, and counties all across the state, by some estimates growing as much as 30 percent over the last three years. Fitzpatrick said he is extremely disappointed to see that, in such tough economic times, 55 bills have been introduced which would increase the state and local share of pension costs and sweeten existing health benefits.

Since 1999, employer contributions at the county level have grown by a staggering 488 percent and school employer contributions have risen by 1,044 percent. It is estimated that, if enacted, the new legislation would add $300 million to the state’s share of the pension system and $560 million in local costs – all of it funded by taxpayers.

In keeping with his commitment to reform sky-high pension costs by leading by example, Assemblyman Fitzpatrick has reintroduced Assembly Bill 5141, which would remove elected officials and political appointees from the current pension system and transition them into a 401(k)-type plan.

“I cannot stress enough the importance of pension reform in order to help keep New York State financially solvent for the future,” said Fitzpatrick. “We are the once-great Empire State in a state of decline in part because of the crushing burden of unsustainable pension benefits, and for the political class to continue to ignore that only proves what I have been saying since my arrival in Albany: pension reform must start with the removal of the political class from a taxpayer-funded retirement system.”