Monday, March 16, 2009


A bill supposedly designed to give municipalities a financial cushion in an effort to help avert huge property tax hikes during the current recession has passed both houses of the legislature. The measure allows local governments to pay 50% of the full pension contribution amount required in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009. Full pension contributions would again be required beginning in FY 2010. The bill would allow a local employer to contribute the full 100% pension contribution if so desired. This contribution would be deposited into the pension funds in the same manner as a normal pension contribution.

Not a single Republican in either the State Senate or the General Assembly voted for the bill. They claim it is bad fiscal policy despite the fact that it was a routine ploy the GOP frequently utilized while in control of the legislature. Democrats reminded their Republican colleagues about that fact, but also joined the GOP in lamenting the fact that the state’s unfunded liability for the pension system is at about $60 billion.

In the 2000-2001 legislative session a bill was passed to increase retirement benefits for active and retired members of the pension system. Lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle still point to this bill as the main culprit to blame for the unfunded liability. 36 State Senators voted “yes” to that bill. 14 of them are still State Senators. Not a single State Senator voted “no.” 76 Assembly members voted “yes” to that bill. 31 of them are still members of the Assembly. One Assembly member voted “no” and he’s still a member of the Assembly. His name is Rick Merkt. He’s a Republican who is vacating his seat because he’s running for Governor. It is not likely that this nugget will help his gubernatorial run, but on this issue, he stands alone in terms of consistent credibility.

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