Empire Center for
for Policy Research
Fiscal Watch Memos
Payroll Watch Archive
November 22, 2013
In 2011, Suffolk County passed a local law (Article I, Section 77-4) barring county elected officials from collecting two public-sector salaries. Now, however, County Executive Steve Bellone wants to change the law to make an exception for Monica Martinez, a newly elected county legislator who also is an assistant principal at the Brentwood School District’s East Middle School.
Ms. Martinez is the sister of the Babylon deputy town supervisor, who is close to Bellone, and she won a primary challenge against another Democrat who was not a loyal soldier. Local political considerations aside, the situation raises interesting questions about the nature of public employment and elective office.
November 14, 2013
Governor Andrew Cuomo has approved a $96 million deficit bonding bailout for Rockland County — with no strings attached, other than once-a-year review of the county executive’s budget proposal by the state comptroller. The bill sets a terrible precedent, signaling distressed municipalities across New York that they, too, might be able to buy time with borrowed money. And, like Rockland — but unlike New York City, Buffalo, Yonkers, Troy, Erie and Nassau counties–they might do it without having to deal with a temporary state control board takeover of their finances.
September 18, 2013
The Tier 6 pension “reform” enacted by New York last year applies to all state and local employees who join the state Employee Retirement System or the Police and Fire Retirement System after April 1, 2012. However, the law included a big loophole for police and firefighters, in particular—as is only now becoming publicly apparent, thanks to a detail of the proposed contract extension for Nassau County cops.
The loophole in question is Section 80 of the Tier 6 law (Chapter 18 of the Laws of 2012), which reads as follows:
Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, nothing in this act shall limit the rights accruing to employees pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement for the unexpired term of such agreement or the eligibility of any member of an employee organization to join a special retirement plan open to him or her pursuant to a collectively negotiated agreement with any state or local government employer, where such agreement is in effect on the effective date of this act [April 1, 2012] and so long as such agreement remains in effect thereafter …
September 10, 2013
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano has reached a tentative contract deal with the Nassau Police Benevolent Association (PBA). That’s what Nassau residents have been told via Newsday and the other Long Island news media, at any rate. As of now, based on what’s visible on the county’s website, Mangano’s office hasn’t issued so much as a press release on the deal–much less a copy of the proposed contract.
This is simply the latest, most extreme example of the kind of secrecy that routinely surrounds proposed public-sector collective bargaining agreements throughout the state.
Labor contracts directly shape employee compensation costs, which are the largest single item driving local taxes. And under the Taylor Law, once a contract is ratified, it becomes a basis for future deals, more or less in perpetuity–unless the union is paid dearly to make concessions. That’s why it’s vitally important for details of proposed contracts to be fully aired before they are ratified by local legislative bodies.
June 20, 2013
A pending change to the state’s binding arbitration law covering police and firefighter contract disputes will not cover pending contract impasses involving firefighters in Syracuse thanks to a last-minute tweak of the bill by Governor Andrew Cuomo. As a result, taxpayers in one of the state’s largest cities (and undoubtedly some other cities and towns as well) will not see any benefit at all from Cuomo’s already watered-down modification of the existing arbitration law.*
As explained here yesterday, hours after the draft of the agreed-upon local government “financial restructuring” bill was released by the governor’s office late Tuesday morning, the bill was revised to reflect two changes sought by police and fire unions.
June 19, 2013
The ink was barely dry on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s local government “restructuring” bill yesterday when the governor made two more concessions to unions on the issue of binding arbitration.
As explained here yesterday, the agreed-upon legislation is weaker and likely to be much less effective than Cuomo’s original proposal for capping police and firefighter pay and benefit increases under an arbitration system that has played a major role in pushing municipal compensation costs to unaffordable and unsustainable levels.
Governor’s Program Bill #21, as posted on his website late yesterday morning, would have expired in 2015 — a political off-year. Legislative sources said the unions were pushing for a later expiration date. The original bill also contained one important loophole for unions in its final paragraph; while the effective date is retroactive to April 1, the new language would not apply to any contract dispute referred to the Public Employment Relations Board for arbitration before June 14 — i.e., last Friday, the last business day before the bill was filed.
Later in the day, however, the governor’s office substituted Program Bill #21R, containing two changes to the original: pushing the expiration date out one more year, to 2016 (which is both a legislative and presidential election year), and adding language that says the law also will not apply to disputes that resulted in a “declaration of impasse” (the step before an arbitration petition) before June 14.
June 18, 2013
Governor Andrew Cuomo has pulled the teeth out of his original proposal to reform the binding arbitration law for police and fire contract disputes, squandering an opportunity to deliver on a key mandate relief priority for many municipalities.
Under bill language reportedly agreed to by the governor and the Legislature, arbitrators will be required to give more weight to an employer’s “ability to pay” in contract disputes between local governments and police and fire unions. However, the governor has backed away from stronger language capping the cost of salaries and benefits awarded through arbitration. The final bill apparently reflects the governor’s efforts to negotiate a bill acceptable to unions — even though Cuomo was in a strong position to virtually dictate his terms for agreeing to an extension of the arbitration law, which is due to expire June 30. The new extension would expire in two years.
June 7, 2013
Don’t look now, but the Legislature is a step away from passing a straight four-year extension of the Taylor Law’s police and binding arbitration provision, which is due to sunset June 30. The Senate extender bill (sponsored by Martin Golden, R-Brooklyn) was reported out of the Civil Service and Pensions Committee last week and advanced to third reading on the floor calendar this week. The Assembly bill (sponsored by Peter Abbate, D-Brooklyn) has been sitting on the floor calendar in the lower house since late April.
Governor Cuomo has said he would not agree to extend the law without changes, but hasn’t been clear on what kind of changes he will demand as his price for signing. Despite strong union support for the measure, Cuomo could make a veto stick—as David Paterson did when he vetoed a previously routine extension of the long-established Tier 2 police and fire pension pension plan back in 2009.
March 28, 2013
Governor Cuomo’s proposed two percent cap on interest arbitration awards to police and firefighters unions was stripped from the final Article 7 budget bill dealing with Education, Labor and Family Assistance issues. At the same time, the Senate and Assembly majorities were unable to get the governor to agree to their preference for a straight four-year extender of the arbitration law, which expires June 30.
This is good news: it means there is still a chance that Cuomo will use his legislative leverage on this issue to demand more meaningful changes that could really help localities get control of their public safety compensation costs.
A second small plus in the final budget is that the Legislature also dropped Cuomo’s proposal to eliminate all state-mandated reporting requirements for local governments. On the surface, it may have sounded like a good way to cut red tape, but it also could have jeopardized the continued existence of important accountability tools like the School Property Tax Report Card and state comptroller’s detailed reports on municipal finances.
February 27, 2013
Older Posts »
Carl Schramm, entrepreneurially minded economist and professor at Syracuse University, worries that “economic amnesia” may hinder the long-term recovery prospects of Syracuse — and, by implication, other once-dynamic upstate cities.
Writing in Forbes, Schramm notes that the Syracuse of the 19th and early 20th centuries relied on home-grown talent to become an economic dynamo — a place variously known as the Candle City, the Crafts City, the China City and the Gear City for its innovative methods of producing everything from tapers to motors. Today, Syracuse is afflicted with a heavy tax burden and high poverty rates, which in term threaten the long-term fiscal stability of its city government.