Mayor Michael Bloomberg appeared on Fred Dicker’s radio show, “Live From The State Capitol,” to discuss Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Tier VI pension reform proposal. Despite rumors of a strained relationship between hizzoner and the governor, Mayor Bloomberg, who was joined by Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings, praised the push for pension reform and blasted legislators who are trying to block Tier VI.
“Our message is that we have an expense that none of us can afford; pension costs that were voted by the Legislature are just destroying the budgets from one end of New York State to the other,” Mayor Bloomberg said.
Mayor Bloomberg said county executives and mayors are united in their belief local governments can’t pay for the current pension system in the dire economic climate.
“The truth of the matter is, we have a pension system that taxpayers cant afford,” he said. “I think for the first time, Fred, you’re really starting to see county executives and mayors across the State say, ‘We really can’t take it any more.’”
With all of this opposition from local leaders, Mayor Bloomberg said pension reform still faces a tough fight because of well-organized unions.
“Single issue advocacy groups like those that receive the pensions … they have a disporporationate amount of power compared to the amount of power that the taxpayers have,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “The taxpayers are not organized.”
Mayor Jennings chimed in to point out his view pension reform could actually benefit unions by minimizing the need for layoffs of public employees.
“This isn’t an attack on unions because, as Mayor Bloomberg said, if we have to cut, we’re going to have to cut members of our police or fire, who then won’t be paying dues to the unions,” Mayor Jennings said.
Mayor Bloomberg blamed the current pension system on members of the State Legislature who rely on campaign contributions from unions and granted the current benefits “without any consultation whatsoever with the cities and counties.” He also criticized those who argue against pension reform by saying Wall Street woes caused the problems with the pension system.
“Every county executive I’ve talked to, every mayor, they’re starting to lay off people in big numbers. … Why do we not have a Legislature that understands?” Mayor Bloomberg asked. “They try to blame others, they say that it’s the result of the stock market, they say that the economy is coming back and it’s all going to be peaches and cream. That’s just not true.”
Currently, the Republican-controlled State Senate plans to include Governor Cuomo’s Tier VI pension reform proposal in their budget, the Democratic-controlled Assembly does not. Mayor Bloomberg said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver might actually be closer to agreeing to pension reform than people think, but he needs “cover” for members of the Assembly who rely on union support. Either way, Mayor Bloomberg said the Legislature would “close down the State” with crippling layoffs if they don’t pass Governor Cuomo’s pension reform plan.
“The blood will be on their hands,” Mayor Bloomberg said.
Despite the opposition from some legislators, Mayor Bloomberg said Governor Cuomo is “too smart” and “too dedicated” to give up his push for pension reform.
“He’s going to do what’s right,” Mayor Bloomberg said.