Astorino Rejects Cuomo’s Pension Plan As “Crack Cocaine”

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Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino said he opposes Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed pension-smoothing plan, saying it would provide a short-term fix but would lead to more troubled local government finances in the future.

“It’s like crack cocaine. You’re going to get a quick high today, but you’re going to end up in the gutter,” Astorino said in an interview yesterday with Gannett’s Albany Bureau.

Astorino said Cuomo’s pension plan — which would lessen the growth in soaring pension costs for local governments and schools over the next 25 years — is bad fiscal policy.

“I think it’s a bad scheme, and it just makes it worse in the future,” said Astorino, a Republican who has been speculated as a potential 2014 gubernatorial candidate against the Democratic governor. “If the leaders of 10 and 20 years ago had decided to confront the issue of pensions then, instead of kicking the can down the road, we wouldn’t be in this situation today. And we shouldn’t do the same to the next generation.”

Astorino’s comments are the strongest yet against Cuomo’s plan. Many local leaders said they appreciate Cuomo’s efforts, but Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, a Democrat, has also raised concerns.

Westchester County last year begrudgingly entered into a pension amortization program through the comptroller’s office. It lets local governments borrow off the pension fund and pay back the costs with interest over 10 years. A growing number of governments are doing it, Gannett’s Albany Bureau reported last month.

Astorino said the county had little choice but to enter the program because of the county’s growing pension bill: It grew from $3 million in 2001 to $91 million this year.

But Astorino said Cuomo’s plan is even worse than amortization because it relies on the expectation that the cost break today would be recouped through future, uncertain savings. He urged state officials to reject the proposal.

“This is not a savings. It’s really a money grab from tomorrow for today,” he explained.

Astorino offered an alternative. He said schools and local governments should be allowed to bond pension costs on the open market, rather than borrow through the pension fund. The state’s pension fund is charging about 3 percent interest this year; it might be half that on the open market.

“It’s sort of like going for a mortgage and being forced to use a particular bank at 6 percent interest when if I shop around I can get it at 3 percent,” he explained. “Who in their right mind would do option A? But that’s what we are in the position of. They are forcing us to use them and only them.”

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10 Comments

  1. the consultant on

    borrowing is never a good idea especially if you are subsidizing debt…andrew cuomo ought
    to bring in some wall street types and figure out how to utilize existing low interest rates
    to spread the obligation out and then when rates return to the mean it will look like a smart
    deal….astorino knows his amortization tables better than the governor

  2. NY cities are in deep weeds financially and a couple of them have already looked into filing for bankruptcy. Andrew Cuomo, who has already decided that his immense popularity in NYC and the media warrant a run for the WhiteHouse in 2016, would not want his image tarnished by upstate cities going under.

    Syracuse, based on her honor’s statements, has already been threatened with a fiscal control board by Lt. Gov. Duffy if she doesn’t get on board with Andy’s plan.

    Andy has become more and more dictatorial in his speeches and mannerisms. But then, in NY, he can afford to do so as long as he can hide the debt load and make sure that the majority of voters are beholden to the state for their livelyhood and/or care.

  3. Safe Water Boy on

    Crack head ? What a crude remark to make from a crude small man. What does that say about his personality? Oops, the cat is out of the bag.

  4. I’m tired of all of these arrogant execs – Asstorino, Cuomo, etc. The problem is they raise Big money from Big people and they have no time or interest in anyone else.

  5. I have a solution. Pass a law that doesn’t allow government employees (local, county, state) to receive more than 3/4 of their base salary as a pension. The overtime is legally obtain and factored into an employees pension. The politicians allowed this. They gave away everything for the votes of the police, firemen and correction officers, now the public wants to punish all the unions because sworn officers are are receiving 6 figure pensions. Legislate a new law, I beleive the public will be behind it.

  6. Forget the strong comments. NYS has a HUGE problem. We are $1.3B in debt and we have no real plan to control spending. We are the most taxed state in the USA. I’m paying $13K a year in property taxes for my 1600 square foot home. The average USA property tax is only around $4500 a year. WTF NYS???

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