Gov. Cuomo vetoes expansion of pensions for corrections officers

Legislative Gazette file photo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill last week that would have granted expansions of retirement programs for corrections officers and sheriff’s deputies.

The bills (S.1850/A.6377), sponsored by Sen. Robert Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, and in the Assembly by Peter Abbate, D-Brooklyn, were passed by the Legislature just before the end of session in June and delivered to the governor on the first of November.

In his veto message, Gov. Cuomo cited a lack of funding for the expansion and the financial burden that lack of state funding would place on the counties that would be left to implement it.

“I support our corrections officers and deputy sheriffs, and I recognize their important public safety responsibilities,” Cuomo said. “However, I have repeatedly vetoed similar or identical bills because they offer additional pension benefits without any funding.”

The Governor’s Office estimates that this expansion would have cost about $100 million annually, or between 5 and 7 percent of a county’s annual payroll. With county property tax increases capped at 2 percent annually, it’s unclear how, or even if, some of the more rural county governments would be able to afford the implementation of this sort of pension expansion.

Despite the veto, the governor did not close the door entirely on this sort of pension benefit expansion.

In his veto message the governor pointed out that this bill in its current form “will unnecessarily impose a substantial burden on New York State taxpayers” before adding that “such decisions must be addressed in the context of the annual budget negotiation.”

One of the bill’s co-sponsors in the Senate, Sen. Patrick Gallivan, R-Elma, expressed confusion at the governor’s veto, considering the legislation simply offers the pensions as an option, and not a mandate.

“I’m disappointed and confused by this veto message as this legislation only gives counties the option to participate,” said Sen. Gallivan via email Wednesday afternoon. “If they choose to do so, the costs will be borne by the employer (county) and will not in any way, shape or form impact the New York State Budget.”

“Our correction officers walk the most difficult beats in America. They are some of the hardest working public servants though they are rarely seen,” said another of the bill’s sponsors, IDC member David Carlucci. “We must continue to fight to give parity to our correction officers and will work in next years budget process to accomplish that.”

The bill, which garnered huge bi-partisan support in both houses, passing 140-3 in the Assembly and 58-1 in the Senate, will likely return to square one in January to be passed through the Legislature again.