New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, calling pension costs a “ticking time bomb,” said a coalition of local officials will begin a statewide television ad campaign urging lawmakers to cut retirement benefits for future workers.
“Too often in Albany, it is only the special interests who are heard; we want to make sure that the people are heard,” Bloomberg said today at a breakfast sponsored by the Long Island Association, an 85-year-old organization of business groups, unions, nonprofits and government agencies representing Nassau and Suffolk counties, which have each declared fiscal emergencies.
Bloomberg, a 70-year-old independent, spoke in support of a pension overhaul proposed by Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, 54, that has run into resistance in the Legislature. Yesterday, the Democratic-led Assembly and the Republican-controlled Senate each approved budget proposals omitting it. Cuomo’s plan, which would affect only future employees, would create a voluntary “defined contribution” retirement benefit similar to a 401(k) plan.
Bloomberg, who heads New York Leaders for Pension Reform, a bipartisan group of 26 mayors and county executives seeking pension-law changes, intends to pay almost all of the “substantial” cost of the ads, said Marc LaVorgna, a spokesman. He declined to say how much money would be spent on the spots, which will begin airing this week.
Vincent Alvarez, president of the New York City Central Labor Council, said traditional pension funds give workers more security than individually managed retirement plans, providing expert money managers and spreading out risk over large numbers of workers during a long period of time.
“An individual account, where a person has to fund his own retirement, that worker has to save at a much higher level,” Alvarez said in an interview. His group represents 1.3 million public and private-industry workers.
The Bloomberg-financed ad campaign follows a similar spate of commercials produced by the Committee to Save New York, a business-backed group formed to support Cuomo’s initiatives. The commercials warned of “massive” layoffs if pension changes aren’t enacted.
In New York City, pension costs have soared almost 600 percent to $8 billion this year from $1.2 billion in 2002, Bloomberg said.
“You’ve seen that same level of growth in pension costs here on Long Island -- only worse,” he said, citing statistics showing pensions increasing 865 percent in Nassau County and 904 percent in Suffolk in the past 10 years.
The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
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