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Letter: Cuomo's pension deal's too costly

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to Newsday's editorial board.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to Newsday's editorial board. (Feb. 14, 2013) Credit: Sam Guzik

The Center for Cost Effective Government, a group of prominent business and community leaders dedicated to mandate reform, believes the State Legislature must do more to control crippling mandates such as pension obligations and outlandish arbitration awards, as outlined in Newsday's Feb. 6 editorial, "A way to ease pension crunch."

A mere spreading out of pension cost, as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has proposed, is not the answer. While helpful short term, it would actually cost more down the road. It would be better to require defined benefit programs for prospective employees so that taxpayers are no longer on the hook when market downturns create delinquencies. Second, we should eliminate factoring overtime into the base for formulating an employee's pension.

Salary padding via overtime is why some employees obtain annual pensions of over $180,000. This reform should be passed this term and applied to present employees, thereby providing immediate taxpayer relief.

We also advocated arbitration caps, but the cap as proposed will have no bearing on Nassau County, which is mysteriously exempted from its reach, or Suffolk, which foolishly locked itself in to an 8-year contract. Apply the cap to every county.

The state is taking baby steps. We must stop tinkering and pass these suggested reforms if we want to see real relief for taxpayers.

Steve Levy, Bayport

Editor's note: The writer is the executive director of the Center For Cost Effective Government, a think tank, and the former Suffolk County executive.