New York State Pensions
Thursday, March 01, 2012
In case you missed it: Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, in a sit-down interview with the Empire on Wednesday, laid on his case against the push for a new pension tier. It was buried in yesterday's piece but is worth taking an isolated look at:
The Comptroller also discussed the pension reform debate. Mayor Michael Bloomberg was in Albany on Wednesday to push state legislators to pass Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed Tier VI plan.
“As local elected leaders, we are the ones who see firsthand just how rising pension obligations are taking a bigger and bigger bite how they’re increasing our tax rates all across this state, money that’s coming out of the pockets of people who are working hard trying to make ends meet and have a future for themselves and their families.”
DiNapoli pointed out that the biggest driver of state pension costs right now is the fallout of the financial crisis which began in 2007.
“Any discussion of changing the parameters of a new tier is not going to impact on the cost that are of concern today,” he said. “We did a new Tier V just two years ago...It had minimal impact on the cost. You do a Tier VI, right--you do it today: minimal impact on the cost."
On this point, the Governor and Comptroller don’t appear to be in disagreement. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Cuomo said “the benefit” of a new pension tier wouldn’t be felt “for years.”
“All we're doing is now changing the rules going forward,” he said. “You're not going to feel these changes for many, many years.”
DiNapoli echoed the Governor’s point on the new tier: “Until you starting hiring a sign number of people in those two tiers, it's not going to have a significant impact."
The difference? Cuomo sees the system as ultimately flawed, as it leaves tax payers on the hook, and in need of a fundamental overhaul that would semi-privatize the system. DiNapoli sees the system as essentially working, and thinks that, instead of making these fundamental decisions “at an extreme” like we are now, we should approach such a long-term situation with an equally expansive mindset.
“I think it's totally appropriate to debate the different parameters of retirement age and contribution level--that's what Tier V's discussion was all about,” he said. “Let’s have a fact-based, thoughtful, inclusive discussion. I think that's the smarter way to approach this question."
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Not too long before Governor Andrew Cuomo went on Fred Dicker's radio program to declare "you are either with the special interests or your with the people" on pension reform, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli put out a statement that highlighted one of the major benefits he sees in keeping the pension system largely like it is.
The Comptroller announced that the state's pension fund succeeded in getting three large California-based companies to agree to disclose how they're spending corporate political money. The release said the agreement with one of the companies, Pacific Gas & Electric, "includes a ground-breaking provision to provide further disclosures of the company’s policies and procedures regarding political lobbying activities."
“These agreements are a victory for shareholders and another step forward for transparency and accountability in the wake of the Citizen United decision,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “I am proud that the New York State Common Retirement Fund is in the vanguard of the movement to ensure that companies are acting with the best interests of shareholders in mind when they engage in political action. It is my hope that other companies will follow these companies’ leads by agreeing to fully disclose their political spending activities.”
DiNapoli has highlighted the usefulness of the fund from a political standpoint before. “By aggregating that capital, we can not only maximize the power to get superior return,” he said in an interview with the Empire last month. “You also can focus on the other ways in which you can make those companies you invest in be responsible corporate citizens in a way that makes their business model sustainable and profitable.”
The state pension fund has over $164 million invested in the companies mentioned in the statement today.
Tuesday, January 03, 2012
Disgraced former State Senator Carl Kruger may have been found guilty on corruption charges, but he will still collect his pension as an elected official, per the state's constitution. New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli wants to try again to do something about it.
The Comptroller's office released a statement saying Kruger has submitted the necessary paperwork to collect his pension today. In response DiNapoli will resubmit a bill that would go beyond the recently-passed ethics reform to penalize lawmakers monetarily, as well as make Official Misconduct--currently a misdemeanor--a felony.
"Former Senator Kruger's actions were a breach of the public's trust, but the State Constitution prevents the forfeiture of his pension," DiNapoli said in a statement. "Public confidence in government has been bruised and battered. This bill will be a strong step toward rebuilding trust."
Lawmakers who took office after this past November are subject to losing their pensions if convicted of corruption. But acts that occurred before the law went into affect--as was the case with Kruger--are exempted. The Comptroller's bill would impose a fine of twice whatever monetary amount a lawmaker is convicted of (so let's say you're convicted of stealing $5,000, DiNapoli's law would fine you $10,000) as well as the aforementioned penal class increase.
"My bill would ensure that those public officials who engage in corrupt practices and wrongdoing will suffer a cost to themselves and their families if they abuse their position for personal gain," DiNapoli said.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Despite the reality, you have to give it to State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli for trying to put the best spin on the situation possible in the headline, "DiNAPOLI: PENSION FUND REMAINS STRONG IN MIDST OF SLUGGISH ECONOMY."
Strong, of course, is a relative term. But concretely, the state's pension has fallen by an estimated 7.48 percent this fiscal quarter. The fund now stands at $133.8 billion.
“Like almost all investors, the Fund has been affected by the sluggish economy and increased volatility in the markets,” DiNapoli said in the statement. “The Fund remains one of the strongest in the U.S. and our diversified portfolio will keep it secure and poised for strong returns in the coming months.”