A new earnings report on the state pension fund shows New York is not out of the fiscal waters yet, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today.
Speaking to reporters following his speech at the state Democratic Conference meeting in Albany, Cuomo was asked what he made of yesterday’s earnings report from the Comptroller’s Office, which pegged the value of the state’s Common Retirement Fund at $150.3 billion on March 30, the end of the state fiscal year. That marked a 5.96 percent rate of return from the previous year, less than the long-term projected rate of 7.5 percent.
Here’s what Cuomo had to say:
“I think it was, I believe it was below the projection. So I think it’s another caution sign that the state, we are not out of this yet and these financial pressures are very real. And the financial pressures on the taxpayers are very real. So it’s just more of the same, but we’ve made a lot of changes. We’re not out of the woods. We’ve stabilized the finances, but it’s not that revenues are roaring back either. These ongoing pension costs are going to be very, very difficult for local governments to sustain, and make no mistake, it’s coming right out of the pocket of the taxpayer.”
Escalating pension costs for governments was a major issue for Cuomo earlier this year, when he and lawmakers agreed — after much cajoling — to introduce a new pension tier that pared back benefits for new state and local government employees. Cuomo and DiNapoli clashed about a proposal that would have allowed new workers to opt for a 401k-style retirement fund, and the option was ultimately only offered to high-earning, non-union employees.
When Cuomo was asked if more needs to be done to rein in pension costs, he said the state will “have to watch it.”
“But to the extent that we’re not where we need to be in performance on the fund, someone’s going to have to pay, and ultimately it’s the taxpayer,” Cuomo said.