Kevin Law

Kevin Law Credit: John Dunn, 2011

The buzz in the business community yesterday morning was what factors finally persuaded New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to appear before the Long Island Association. The LIA had been trying to get Bloomberg here for years.

Bloomberg provided the answer. "The Rev. Calvin Butts has been asking me to be here, and he doesn't stop until you say yes," the mayor said. He was referring to the president of SUNY Old Westbury, who is also pastor of the historic Abyssinian Baptist Church in Manhattan.

But Bloomberg had also come to pitch Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's proposal to reform public pensions. Bloomberg said such pensions are threatening the economic life of both New York City and Long Island. Pension costs, if not curbed, will eventually mean higher taxes and fewer services, measures that will drive away businesses and residents, he said.

New York City has saved $6 billion annually through budget cuts, he said, yet its pension costs have risen $6.5 billion in the last decade.

Bloomberg was joined by Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, both of whom also urged the State Legislature to pass some type of pension reform.

Later, Butts acknowledged that he "bugged" Bloomberg about coming, on a request by LIA president Kevin Law. Butts is an LIA board member. "I told him he would be a welcome speaker and he would have a great deal to say," Butts said.

Unions oppose Cuomo's plan, and Butts has been a supporter of union causes. Does he embrace the plan? "I was cautious to the degree I did not fully have all the information," Butts said. "But I'm anxious to hear more because it sounds reasonable to me."

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