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Pension reform draws mixed reviews

— Legislators made a deal with Gov. Andrew Cuomo that helped assure their re-election while offering up pension reform that down the line will hurt the children currently suffering under policies that birthed the Great Recession, says Roderick Sherman.

“That is who they have attacked,” said the president of the Plattsburgh Teachers Association. “They have attacked our children on two fronts.”

On the other hand, some welcome reform of a system that most recently has been costing local governments more in the form of rising contribution rates.

“This legislation brings long-term financial relief to all local governments,” said Plattsburgh City Mayor Donald Kasprzak.

State lawmakers approved pension reform they say will save more than $80 billion over 30 years.

This would be accomplished largely by reducing benefits for newly-hired state and local public workers, something union officials say is a direct assault on the middle class.

The law creates a sixth tier of smaller pension benefits for future state and local public workers and raises contributions to retirement plans with a sliding scale, ranging from 3 percent to 6 percent. It further raises the minimum retirement age for state workers from 62 to 63.

Pension costs for New York’s municipalities have risen more than 650 percent since 2002, to $12.2 billion in 2012, according to information released by Cuomo.

The National Institute on Retirement Security reported that, in 2009, 768,392 residents received a total of $20.5 billion from state and local plans for an average of $2,200 monthly.

“By putting the interests of the people of New York first, we overcame the obstacles that for so long have stood in the way of real reform and delivered one of the most critical, widespread reforms the state has seen in years,” Cuomo said in a press release.

Cuomo in fact sought more drastic changes as state and local governments nationwide work to reduce retirement costs.

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