Reporting Rich Lamb
NEW YORK (AP / CBS New York) - Future city police and firefighters could not boost their pensions by working overtime in their last years on the job under cuts proposed Wednesday by the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The proposal, subject to state lawmakers’ approval, would also raise teacher retirement ages for new hires and eliminate a $12,000 yearly payment received by many current police and fire department retirees. The administration presented it to the Municipal Labor Committee, which represents some 300,000 city workers.
Bloomberg has said the city’s pensions are more generous than those in the private sector. With the metropolis facing deep budget cuts, he argues that he has no choice but to reduce pensions for future hires and cut the yearly payments for some retirees.
But unions fiercely protested the proposal, saying the city was ignoring the sacrifices of many of its workers.
“This would destroy the city employees. You wouldn’t get the talent that you have there now,” said Harry Nespoli, the Municipal Labor Committee chairman. “This is just an attack on the middle class.”
The yearly payments to retired firefighters and police officers are a promise the city should not abandon, said Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association Patrick Lynch.
“This is not only bad fiscal policy that may result in low recruitment and increased crime rates, it’s a violation of a trust,” he said.
The proposal also calls for non-uniformed workers to pay more of their salary into their pension and cuts some benefits for teachers. Uniformed employees who work fewer than 22 years would have to wait until the age of 65 to collect their pensions.
Bloomberg has enlisted former Mayor Ed Koch in his Albany campaign for pension reforms that he says will save the city billions of dollars. Among the changes they’re seeking is a reversal of the law requiring the state government to approve city pension changes. Instead, Bloomberg wants to be able to negotiate pension terms at the same time as salary and other benefits during collective bargaining.
It’s unclear what fate the proposal will face in the Legislature. Joshua Vlasto, a spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said Wednesday the administration was reviewing the proposal.
“As the Governor has said since the beginning of his campaign, he is committed to reforming the pension system in order to reduce costs,” Vlasto said in an e-mail.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)