ALBANY – January 25, 2012

As the Minority Ranking Member of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, I have attended a series of budget hearings this week: Elementary and Secondary Education, Local Government, and Workforce Issues. Tomorrow, there will be a hearing on how the proposed 2012 state budget will affect transportation concerns.

There is great concern, as expressed by State Education Commissioner John King that even though schools will see an $805 million boost in aid this year, it won’t be enough to prevent dire times ahead for some school districts. A number of districts could face insolvency in the next few years. Increasing employee costs could make some district budgets unsustainable in just a year or two. Districts, especially those losing population, are already struggling to meet mandates.

At the Local Government hearing, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg talked about the potential impact of the budget. Mayor Thomas Richards of Rochester also spoke, saying he was optimistic that the budget will give local governments the tools they need, including relief for meeting Medicaid and pension mandates. Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano also spoke, as did Buffalo Mayor Bryon Brown.

Today’s hearing on Workforce Issues focused on Gov. Cuomo’s proposal to add a Tier 6 to new municipal employees to curb retirement costs. His proposed Tier 6 would increase employee contributions—then require workers to absorb some of the pain in a market decline by paying more into the pension fund—raise the retirement age to 65, reduce the multiplier used to calculate pensions by 17 percent and exclude overtime and other payments from the final average salary on which the pension is figured. Previous tiers were also installed at the pressure of fiscal downturns.


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