Bloomberg Says Pension Cuts Aren't Personal

Mayor Bloomberg said the sweeping pension reform he's pushing is nothing personal, it's just business.

Among the major changes the Bloomberg administration wants: extending retirement age from 57 to 65, higher employee contributions and elimination of annual stipends for certain retired police and firefighters -- something Bloomberg said the city simply cannot afford any longer.

At a press conference Thursday, the mayor defused the claims by Sanitation Union chief Harry Nespoli that his demands are "an attack on the middle class" that would "destroy" city employees and set back labor relations for decades.

"Tomorrow Harry and I will just be as friendly as we were yesterday," Bloomberg said. "He represents one side, I represent the other, and we will in the end come to an agreement."
Bloomberg is headed to Albany on Monday to testify before lawmakers since some of the changes will require state approval.

The mayor wants to double the amount of time required for some municipal workers to qualify for a pension from five years to 10. He also wants to raise teacher retirement ages for new hires and eliminate a $12,000 annual payment to many police and firefighter retirees.

"There's not enough money after the governor's budget to employ the number of people we have," Bloomberg said Thursday.

The proposal, in which police and firefighters could not boost their pensions by working overtime in their last years on the job, is subject to state lawmakers' approval. Bloomberg has said the city's pensions are more generous than those in the private sector.

The yearly payments to retired firefighters and police officers are a promise the city should not abandon, said Patrolmen's Benevolent Association Patrick Lynch.

"This is not only bad fiscal policy that may result in low recruitment and increased crime rates, it's a violation of a trust," he said.

The proposal also calls for non-uniformed workers to pay more of their salary into their pension and cuts some benefits for teachers. Uniformed employees who work fewer than 22 years would have to wait until the age of 65 to collect their pensions.

Bloomberg also wants to be able to negotiate pension terms at the same time as salary and other benefits during collective bargaining.

It's unclear what fate the proposal will face in the Legislature. Joshua Vlasto, a spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said Wednesday the administration was reviewing the proposal.

"As the Governor has said since the beginning of his campaign, he is committed to reforming the pension system in order to reduce costs," Vlasto said in an e-mail.

Reporting by Richard Yeh