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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Pension Reform

(Or why I am not quite a full steam ahead union guy)

New York State's Governor Andrew Cuomo has found great success in Albany so far in his first term.  From shepherding Gay Marriage through the Statehouse to enacting tough reforms, he has met the challenge of being a true progressive and lead the state where others have miserably failed. 
Both a theme of his governorship and of President Obama term have been the need for us all to sacrifice and share in the burden of bringing improved fiscal solvency to government at all levels. A great republican theme has been the nature of unions and the exorbitant benefits paid union members.  Sadly, we are sometimes out own worst enemies and few issues reflect this as strongly as the cost of pensions and health care for New York City Employees.  I will admit here that I pay a grand total of Zero Dollars for both.

My health care and my pension require no fiscal contribution from my paycheck.  I do pay a $15 co-pay to see a doctor and I don't have the costly drug rider, but my basic insurance is free.  My pension, as I am not in the twenty-five and out plan, required a three percent contribution until the completion of my 10th year.  Upon reaching that milestone, my contributions ceased.  Had I been in 25 and out, a 6% contribution would continue, but that remains a very low number, especially given the benefits that are a part of the pension payout provisions. 

Given the increasing strain of pension payments on local governments, the nature of shrinking tax revenues and the nationwide trends of private sector employees being forced to pay incredibly high amounts for pensions (if they are fortunate enough to even have them) and health care-- I do not feel it a horrible thing for NYC and NYS employees to be asked to contribute a little more. 

For us to give 5% towards our pensions for the duration of our employment and 5% towards health care costs (both before tax deductions) would contribute to a better fiscal outlook for local and state government and make for stronger local budgets-- something that benefits everyone.  Similar reforms are now a part of the Governor's Agenda and some of my fellow union-members are reacting with a completely expected shriek.  However, in this case, those shrieks are unwarranted and unfair-- given the state of our economy and the realities of today's workforce.  Maybe it is time for us to think about giving a little back, especially if a frequent progressive cry is that other's should be doing the same.  

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