ALBANY –- Tom DiNapoli may be the state’s comptroller. He may also be the sole trustee of one of the world’s largest public pension systems.
But Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today he doesn’t feel like he has to discuss his plan to change that pension system with DiNapoli, who has angered officials in the Cuomo administration with his very public criticisms of Cuomo's call to hike pension costs for future government workers.
“I understand the comptroller’s political position and I understand his politics,’’ Cuomo told reporters today in Albany after a pension stump speech before a group of mayors from around the state. Both Cuomo and DiNapoli are Democrats.
But Cuomo said he has kept his discussions on the matter to the Legislature, and not DiNapoli, because “the comptroller really doesn’t have the vote on this.’’
“He has a political position, but no vote,’’ the governor said.
Earlier before the group of mayors, Cuomo lashed out at “special interests’’ –- read: public employee unions –- for opposing his plan to increase what future employees would pay to belong to the pension system or take an opt-out to enroll in a 401(k)-like plan.
“This is a company town, and they are the company,’’ Cuomo said of the labor groups fighting his plan. He said state lawmakers are giving unions “veto power’’ over the issue of whether the pension system should be changed.
But while the governor said higher pension costs “could bankrupt’’ the state and localities, he also floated the notion of bolstering pension benefits for government workers when the economy turns around. (Indeed, how much a government employer pays for the pensions of its workers is based not just on their own payroll levels, but also on the performance -– lagged and “smoothed out’’ over several years -– of the pension system's investments on everything from its cash holdings and stock portfolio to shares of apartment buildings and shopping malls).
To critics who say an improved economy could permit better pension offerings than the new Tier 6 plan he is promoting, Cuomo said, “Fine, then reduce it to the level you can afford today and if the economy turns around and if you have the money and if you want to raise the pension benefits down the road, raise the pension benefits, and that’s fine.’’
Sounds like a Tier 7 could be down the road for good times.
-- Tom Precious