News Coverage on Pensions

Daily News

Cuomo administration pressures teachers retirement system into dropping constitutional gripe about pensions

Kenneth Lovett
Monday, March 5, 2012


Gov. Cuomo’s budget team pushed the state teachers retirement system into scrapping a critical review of his pension reform plan, the Daily News has learned.

A formal fiscal analysis sent to Cuomo’s budget office on Jan. 31 by the organization that administers the pension system for teachers and school administrators included a section slugged “legal concerns.”

It raised constitutionality questions about Cuomo’s plan to hike employee contribution rates.

Two days later, after a call from Cuomo aides, a revised fiscal note was sent — without the legal concern.

“It’s outrageous,” said one source who accused Cuomo aides of “sanitizing” the document.

Teachers retirement system spokesman John Cardillo confirmed the change was made at Team Cuomo’s request, but wouldn’t say why.

Included in the actual bills, fiscal notes help highlight to lawmakers the financial impact of individual pieces of legislation.

Cuomo budget spokesman Morris Peters argued they should be “straight actuarial endeavors.”

Including legal concerns in a fiscal note “is unprecedented in our memory,” he said.

In a Feb. 3 memo to the teacher retirement system board, actuary Richard Young and general counsel Wayne Schneider said they agreed to remove the legal concern because it “does not impact the overall cost of the fiscal note.”

Assembly Democrats, who are fighting Cuomo’s pension reform plan, received 20% of their $31.4 million in donations since 2009 from public and private labor unions, according to an analysis done for The News by the New York Public Interest Research Group.

“Albany’s richest special interests are able to buy access to legislators which ordinary New Yorkers can’t afford,” NYPIRG’s Bill Mahoney said.

Senate Republicans, who have embraced Cuomo’s call for a 401(k)-type option, received just 8% of their $46 million in donations since 2009 from unions, the review found.



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