New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday he strongly backs Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's proposal to reform public pensions, saying such costs threaten the economic life of the city and its suburbs.
"Long Island and New York City are connected by more than roads," Bloomberg told an audience of about 200 people at the Long Island Association's Melville headquarters. "There's a quality of life that attracts people" to both places.
Public pension costs, Bloomberg said, threaten the economies of the city and the Island, and he urged the audience to back Cuomo's proposal, which calls on the State Legislature to adopt a less costly pension plan for future public workers as part of his 2012-13 state budget.
Bloomberg cited an example of soaring costs. In 2007 New York City began cutting its budget, realizing, he said, that the economic boom of the early part of the decade would not last forever. The city, saved $6 billion annually, Bloomberg said. Yet, he said, in the last decade pension costs rose $6.5 billion. Today, he said, such costs stand at about $8 billion a year.
"Pension costs ate up every single dollar we saved," Bloomberg said. "The case for pension reform could not be more important."
Meanwhile in Albany Tuesday about 1,000 firefighters from New York City and a handful of other cities rallied outside the State Capitol to make their case against Cuomo's pension proposal.
Some said they worried that if pension benefits were reduced for future employees, those new firefighters would be more risk averse because their families wouldn't be taken care of in the same way if they died in the line of duty.
"Each and every time we go to work, we put not only our lives on the line, but our health on the line," Al Hagan, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, told the crowd. "Until now, as the officers and members of the fire department performed that very dangerous work, they were confident that they would be provided for should things go wrong. No more."
Talks over the pension proposal continue.
Public Employees Federation Ken Brynien said earlier in the day that talks with the governor have not been fruitful. "I wouldn't call them negotiations; they've been conversations," Brynien said. "He told us what he needed, and we told him what we needed, and there's considerable distance between the two."
Public employee unions and lawmakers have pushed for passage of a bill that would allow the attorney general to sue financial firms to recoup pension fund losses from financial fraud.