Pataki Vetoes Early Retirement Incentive for State Employees

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Governor Pataki yesterday vetoed an early retirement incentive plan for civilian state employees, saying it was too costly and broad.

The governor was prepared to support an early retirement plan when it was folded into a bill that would have increased the number of charter schools in the state. That hybrid legislation, which was part of a last-ditch effort by the governor to broker a deal on charter schools before the end of legislative session, passed in the Senate but died in the Assembly. Both houses instead passed an early retirement plan that was not attached to an increase in the number charter schools.

In his veto message, Governor Pataki said he was concerned that the legislation would lead to “significant unbudgeted costs” and would “permit virtually all public employees who meet certain basic requirements to leave public service quickly and in large numbers, without any mechanism to allow public employers to manage such loss and maintain critical services.”

Mr. Pataki said he wasn’t against an early retirement plan to help reduce the public workforce but said he preferred one that was more efficient and less costly.

Legislative leaders have until the end of the year to call a special session and override the governor’s veto or reach a compromise.The vote totals in both houses were well beyond the twothirds-majority override threshold.

The bill vetoed by Mr. Pataki would allow state and city civilian employees who are at least 55 years old and who have worked for 25 years to retire without pension penalties and receive an annual pension equal to half of their maximum salaries. Under the present system, employees need at least 30 years of service to retire without reductions to their benefits.

The bill would offer two 90-day windows — occurring this year and next —for employees who meet the requirements to opt into the pension plan, which covers a broad swath of statewide civilian employees, such as teachers, clerks, mechanics, nurses, and road workers. Only those who are eligible during the window can take advantage of it.

In his veto message, the governor said the bill would cost state and local governments $11 million for the next 17 years, plus an additional $8 million. The early retirement plan was one of at least 36 measures that the Legislature passed in the final days of session that would expand pension benefits for public workers, according to a study released by the Empire Center for New York State Policy.

The president of the United Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, said in a statement that she was “disappointed” by the governor’s veto. “We also think it is very interesting that the governor would find 55/25 okay when connected to a bill on charter schools, but not by itself,” she said.

The New York Sun

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