WE THE PEOPLE: Week of March 22

Headlines scream, “Pension Reform or Else!” Real changes must be made to our public employee pension system and a new Tier Six plan for new employees is in the offing. It will save the city and the state billions, but it will do so without destroying the system in the future.

Union groups have opposed any cut to benefits by saying Tier Six will destroy the entire pension system. Tier Six will be presented without the “defined contribution” 401K-like option in earlier versions. Instead, the traditional “defined benefit” plan will reduce benefits and increase contributions from the workers. There will be limits on pension enhancement through overtime and workers will generally work longer before they can collect a less generous pension. This harsh medicine is necessary due to the soaring cost of public employee pensions.

Pro-business groups refuse to acknowledge that fundamentally changing the pension system with a “defined contribution” option could undermine the entire pension system 20 or 30 years from now. There will be no employee contribution to the pension funds if all new employees choose the 401K-like option.

True reform requires a plan for all possible scenarios and all creating contingencies. This planning should not be crisis-driven. The employees should be a part of that process. Albany should consider a plan to consolidate or coordinate the six public employee pension funds into one in order to promote efficiency and uniformity.

It was rumored that the NYPD and FDNY would be exempted from pension changes, however it appears that substantive changes will be made to their pension systems with increased contributions and reduced benefits as well.

Lawmakers will pass a compromise budget bill and it will contain Tier Six pension fixes but more should be done to assure the integrity of the retirement system. If the stock market rebounds and pension fund assets increase in value, the city and state should continue payment into the system at a steady rate. The pension funds should be directly invested in the city and state since this would generate reliable income for the funds and reduce the cost of borrowing for the government.


Perhaps Governor Cuomo saved some magic for Senate and Assembly redistricting since the proposed lines are an undisguised attempt to grab political power. The state Republican Party is fighting mightily to have a 63rd Senate district created near Albany. The lines for this extra district would assure it would be an easy Republican seat. Meanwhile, the GOP wants New York City Senate lines redrawn to pit Democratic Senators against each other.

New York lost population according to the Census. Why do we need a 63rd Senate district? The downstate population grew and the upstate population shrank but the GOP wants every upstate Senate district to fall below the average population size and every downstate one to exceed the average population size.

Voters should be outraged and so should be Governor Cuomo. We need a nonpartisan law to prevent district line changes except along set geographical and man-made borders in order to rein in the gerrymandering power of incumbent politicians. The governor should veto the proposed district lines.


A Happy St. Patrick’s Day blessing to Irish people around the globe; on this remarkable feast day everyone is Irish, at least for the day.

Brian Kieran is an attorney and community activist who works as a Principal Law Clerk in the Supreme Court of the State of New York in Kings County and is a Democrat.

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