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Legislature eyes public pension ‘sweeteners’ in annual rite

Senators meet in the Senate Chamber at the

Senators meet in the Senate Chamber at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2016, in Albany. Photo Credit: AP / Mike Groll

ALBANY — The annual tradition in the State Legislature of proposing “sweeteners” to state pensions for workers and retirees represented by politically powerful unions has produced 120 bills so far worth hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits, according to the independent Citizens Budget Commission.

Each June, the last scheduled month of the annual legislative sessions, such bills pop up for quick floor votes with little debate or public review.

Governors from George Pataki to Andrew M. Cuomo routinely have vetoed most pension sweeteners, usually without the threat of overrides by the legislature.

“The cumulative cost could be far greater, but cannot be determined, because two-thirds of the bills are not accompanied by the required fiscal impact statement,” David Friedfel of the budget commission said in a report released Tuesday.

The bills would increase benefits, expand eligibility for pensions, ease restrictions on health care benefits and increase death benefits.

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi on Tuesday declined to comment until the bills are passed and sent to the governor’s office.

There was no immediate comment from the Senate’s Republican majority or the Assembly’s Democratic majority.

Public employee unions are among the biggest campaign contributors in the state.

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