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Union Suspends Endorsements, Contributions Over Cuomo Pension Plan

Monday, March 19, 2012

Meeting for the first time since deals were struck on pension reform and new district lines, the state legislature on Monday tried to focus on their new task: agreeing on a budget. But they found that the old issues continue to have repercussions, as a major union suspended all endorsements and contributions over the pension vote.

Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday signed into law a bill to expand the state’s DNA data base, a law Cuomo said would make the state “safer.”

The DNA bill was passed in all-night session last week. During the marathon session, Cuomo and lawmakers also settled on redistricting lines that largely favor incumbent lawmakers and approved changes in benefits for future state workers, who will have to now contribute more toward their pensions and receive less in return.  

Legislators are suffering a backlash from those last two votes from the state’s largest public employee union, which said it is suspending all political endorsements and campaign contributions to state legislators because of the deal

Civil Service Employee Association President Danny Donohue said lawmakers put “their own political self interest” ahead of the retirement security of future state workers. He said the union is considering backing primary challengers to key incumbent legislators.

“If they think that we’ll forget about this in a month or two, I don’t think they understand what they’ve done,” said Donohue, who said Cuomo has “burnt a lot of bridges.”

Unions provide key support in the form of staffing phone banks, distributing literature and holding signs at campaign rallies. Cuomo is not up for reelection for two more years, but Senators and Assembly members will face the voters this year.  

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver chided CSEA for making its decision based on one vote.

“I have no reaction to that,” said Silver, who says “support should not come as the result of a vote ‘Yes’ or a vote ‘No’ on any particular bill”.  

Silver said he’s now focusing on the state budget. His house has some disagreements with the governor’s plan, including Cuomo’s desire to award $250 million in school aid on a competitive basis. The speaker and several other key lawmakers think most of that money should go directly to aid poor school districts.  

Meanwhile, progressive-leaning groups lobbied lawmakers to raise taxes on corporations in the new budget.

Ron Deutsch, with New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, said corporate tax loopholes should be closed, to “adequately provide series to struggling New Yorkers.”

The legislature did not seem close to making final decisions on the budget. Conference committees were gathering, but at this meeting of the Higher Education conference committee, little was accomplished, as Assembly Chair Deborah Glick admitted the committee had not yet been told the amount of money it has to allocate.

“We’re a little bit at a standstill,” Glick said.

Lawmakers have nearly two full working weeks before they have to settle on a new budget. It’s due April 1.

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