Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef joined with other county executives and mayors from across New York State in announcing the formation of a bipartisan coalition to address skyrocketing . The members of New York Leaders for Pension Reform announced Thursday they will lead a statewide campaign to ensure state legislators understand the importance to local governments of passing Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s reform plan. The governor’s plan would get pension costs under control without reducing retirement benefits for any public employee.
“I strongly support Governor Cuomo’s pension reform legislation. Under this proposed reform, new employee contribution rates would increase, bringing much-needed relief to county governments like Rockland,” said Vanderhoef, who is one of the Coalition’s founding members. “It is vital that the state government address the huge unfunded mandate liability of pensions, which have significantly increased costs to the 62 counties of New York.”
Rockland is paying $23 million in pension costs this year compared to $17.9 in 2011.
The Coalition noted pension costs borne by local governments increased from $1.7 billion in 2002 to $12.5 billion in 201, a jump of more than 630 percent. Coalition members pointed out how local pension payments have already significantly reduced localities’ ability to fund education, public safety, social services, economic development and other services. They predicted if costs continue to escalate they will result in future severe budget cuts or tax increases.
Gov. Cuomo’s plan will create a new tier of pension benefits, Tier 6, for yet-to-be-hired employees who are participating in the state and New York City retirement systems. Existing employees and retirees will be unaffected. The new plan would raise the retirement age for newly hired employees, and exclude overtime from the formula used to calculate the final average salary for pension payments. Additionally, it would provide employees with the option of participating in a defined contribution plan.
Pension costs in Rockland are a significant burden on county government. But the costs trail those of Medicaid, Early Intervention and PreK and Health Care. Rockland's Medicaid costs are $73 million this year and Early Intervention and PreK is running about $50 million.
Coalition members characterized the rise in pension costs as unsustainable and something that needs to be addressed to relieve pressure on taxpayers and local services.
The 25 founding members of New York Leaders for Pension Reform are:
County Executives and Legislative Leaders
- Rockland: County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef
- Albany: County Executive Daniel P. McCoy
- Dutchess: County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro
- Erie: County Executive Mark Poloncarz
- Genesee: Legislature Chair Mary Pat Hancock
- Monroe: County Executive Maggie Brooks
- Nassau: County Executive Edward P. Mangano
- Oneida: County Executive Anthony J. Picente, Jr.
- Onondaga: County Executive Joanne M. Mahoney
- Orange: County Executive Edward A. Diana
- Suffolk: County Executive Steve Bellone
- Westchester: County Executive Robert P. Astorino
- Wyoming: Chairman of the County of Board of Supervisors Douglas Berwanger
- Albany: Mayor Gerald D. Jennings
- Hornell: Mayor Shawn Hogan
- Jamestown: Mayor Samuel Teresi
- New York City: Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
- New Rochelle: Mayor Noam Bramson
- Ogdensburg: Mayor William D. Nelson
- Plattsburg: Mayor Donald M. Kasprzak
- Rochester: Mayor Thomas S. Richards
- Syracuse: Mayor Stephanie Miner
- Utica: Mayor Robert A. Palmieri
- Watertown: Mayor Jeff Graham
- White Plains: Mayor Thomas M. Roach