State lawmakers worked through the night and well into Thursday morning to complete a deal on a number of thorny issues at the Capitol, include the installation of new Senate and Assembly districts and a reduction in retirement benefits for new employees.
A vote on a new pension tier for state and local government workers was approved by the Assembly after 7 a.m. Thursday, capping a marathon session that began Wednesday night. The session also included legislative agreements on revamping the once-a-decade redistricting process beginning in 2022, expanding the state’s DNA databank and beginning the process toward legalizing seven private casinos.
The new pension system, which would only affect yet-to-be-hired employees, would scale back benefits for workers and reduce costs for local governments, most of whom had strongly advocated for retooling the retirement system as a way to cut spending.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office estimates the new retirement tier — Tier VI — will save municipalities $80 billion over the next three decades. It would increase employee contributions by as much as 3 percent for workers making more than $45,000 and raise the retirement age from 62 to 63, but does not include a 401(k)-style option for most employees, as Cuomo had pushed for.
“Without this critical reform, New Yorkers would have seen significant tax increases, as well as layoffs to teachers, firefighters and police,” Cuomo said in a statement.
Labor unions, some of whom will host a rally outside the Capitol on Thursday, were incensed with the change.
“We strongly condemn the Tier 6 plan as it would cut pension benefits for new hires by 40 percent and pull billions of dollars out of the State and City Pension systems to turn over to Wall Street financial firms,” according to a statement issued Wednesday by the national AFL-CIO. “Tier 6 is simply unfair to public workers who have already made significant sacrifices.
Lawmakers also passed a constitutional amendment that would allow for up to seven privately-owned casinos in New York. The amendment would need to be passed by consecutively elected sessions of the Legislature and by a vote of the public before it takes effect.