Published in
The Empire

Stringer calls Bloomberg's comments 'outrageous'

Scott Stringer - the Manhattan borough president and prospective 2013 mayoral candidate - is out with a statement slamming Bloomberg for "outrageous" comments about pension payments he'd like the city to stop paying.

It's a milder criticism than Bloomberg got from police and fire union leaders yesterday, who called him a "liar" and other unflattering things.

At issue are $12,000 annual payments the city makes to uniformed retirees from what's known as the Variable Supplement Fund. Officers with more than 20 years on the force receive them. Bloomberg has called the payments a "Christmas bonus," and therefore, a perk that can be taken away in a budget crunch. Union members say it's part of their pension, and therefore, can't.

Having to takes sides on the issue is problematic for most officials, particularly those expected to run for mayor: angry unions on one side, angry taxpayers on the other.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn - who has strong ties to unions and the mayor - hasn't publicly stated her position, saying she needs to speak with her colleagues on the Council. A spokesman for City Comptroller John Liu - whose work looking over the city's finances will play a large role in any future campaign - said he's "extremely concerned with any proposal that breaks a promise" made to these retirees.

In a statement, sent to me by a spokeswoman, Stringer takes a shot at Bloomberg, but doesn't come out definitely on whether the city should keep the payment plan in place, which city officials say cost NYC about $1 billion a year. (Unions say the city got cash and concessions decades ago that more than make up for it.)

Here's Stringer:

“I am becoming increasingly concerned about the tone and direction the Mayor is taking as it relates to union negotiations and a discussion around pensions. To characterize the Variable Supplement Fund benefit as it relates to the men and women of our police and fire departments as a “Christmas bonus” is simply outrageous. When you throw mud, it splatters. We need a serious conversation between City Hall, our labor leaders and Albany about pension reform. In a time of serious fiscal crisis, we’re going to need collective sacrifice. Grandstanding, bomb throwing and divisive accusations by City Hall will undermine the fiscal soundness of this city.”