New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver not Totally with Gov. Cuomo on Pension Reforms - Silver Backs 'Some' Parts of the Plan

NY Daily News - February 20, 2012

by Kenneth Lovett

Silver Backs 'Some' Parts of the Plan

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has raised the prospect of supporting some pension changes this year -- but nowhere near the sweeping reforms Gov. Cuomo seeks. Silver told the Daily News that his conference has "problems" with Cuomo's push to offer new state workers the option of a 401(k)-type plan -- putting the state's two powerful Democrats on a collision course.

There are also concerns among his members, Silver said, over Cuomo's call to reduce pension benefits and raise the retirement age for state and local government workers.

"Many of them say they don't want a 63-year-old fireman running up the steps of a burning building or a 62-year-old police officer chasing a potential murderer down the street," Silver (D-Manhattan) said.

The crusading Cuomo wants to overhaul the pension system to cut costs and bogus pension padders. Silver said he told the governor "we can deal with some of the perceived pension abuses."

The speaker wouldn't give specifics of those abuses, but a source close to him said it has to do with overtime and disability.

The Assembly, the source said, might be open to limiting how much nonmandatory overtime workers can apply to their pensions.

Cuomo and the lawmakers can't change pension benefits for existing workers, but they can change the rules on how much overtime state employees can rack up -- driving down current costs as well as future pension payouts shouldered by taxpayers, the source said.

Others accuse Silver of trying to protect the unions. They say that severely restricting overtime would likely require the hiring of more state workers while doing little to help the state and city rein in out-of-control pension costs.