Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said today that he has concerns about Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pension-smoothing plan, saying the state’s pension fund can’t be a “mandate-relief fund.”
In his budget address Jan. 22, Cuomo proposed a plan that would let local governments and schools realize expected pension savings in the coming years rather than wait decades for the breaks. He said the plan wouldn’t be mandatory but could provide immediate relief for entities struggling with soaring pension costs.
DiNapoli, the sole trustee of the $150 billion pension fund, would have to sign off on the plan. He said he has questions about the proposal and whether it would threaten the pension fund’s solvency.
Unlike some states, New York has one of the best-funded public pensions in the country, he said. It has 1 million retirees and current employees in state and local governments.
“The pension fund is a pre-funding of an obligation that we have to our retirees and beneficiaries. It’s not set up to be a mandate-relief fund,” DiNapoli said during a speech at a conference of the state Association of Counties.
DiNapoli said he’s unsure whether the Democratic governor’s plan would leave the fund short in future years. DiNapoli, also a Democrat, hasn’t taken a formal position on Cuomo’s plan and said he’s reviewing it.
“I understand all the issues that are out there and I appreciate the concerns that there are about the increasing pension costs,” DiNapoli said. “But my obligation is to make sure the fund is managed in the best way for the benefit of the retirees and the beneficiaries.”
Some local government leaders said they support Cuomo’s plan, saying otherwise growing pension costs would jeopardize jobs and services. The cost is soaring 40 percent for schools next year, and it’s up 11 percent for local governments after increasing 37 percent in 2012.
The Teachers’ Retirement System, an $88 billion fund for 149,000 retirees and 277,000 active members, voted last week to hire a consultant to review Cuomo’s plan.
Other local officials said they have concerns and wouldn’t enter it.