In this day and age, as our state is faced with economic hardship, every working person knows the importance of providing New York State with efficient and effective services without increasing costs. As a policy maker, it is very difficult to do this. Many times you have to weigh the positives and negatives of each proposal, taking into consideration the most important factors, the taxpayer and cost. This year, we have worked closely and vigilantly with the public employee workforce and the Governor’s office to maintain these crucial services without any ill-effect on the taxpayers of this state.
Whether it is Police, Fire, Sanitation or EMS, we in the community depend on these working men and women every day to maintain vital public services. This newsletter is directed to convey the commitment of the working men and women across this state to ensure effective and efficient services while holding the line on taxpayer dollars.
I would like to thank the Speaker, all the committee members and all staff for their dedication and attention to the needs of our state’s public workforce and taxpaying constituents. Additionally, I would like to thank the public employee organizations, their representatives and the many government officials whose input on legislation is invaluable.
If you have any questions or concerns about issues or legislation before the Committee, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Peter J. Abbate, Jr.
Over the course of this year, the Assembly negotiated several initiatives that would protect the health of our public workforce while at the same time protect the public taxpayer. Most of these initiatives are driven by the idea of preventative care. It is proven that if we catch health issues before they happen or in the early stages, it will save lives and in some studies millions of taxpayer dollars. Below is one example of an initiative that was discussed this year.
A8283/S5755 – Air pollution can affect an individual’s health in many ways with both short-term and long-term effects. The extent to which an individual is harmed by air pollution usually depends on the total exposure to the damaging chemicals. In many cases, employees working in toll plazas are exposed to these harmful pollutants for a total of 8 hours per day. This bill would create a task force on toll plaza air quality in order to identify, study and determine the extent of the effects on air quality in toll plazas leading into and out of the five boroughs of New York City.
One of the hardest things we face is maintaining the workability and sustainability of the public pension funds. When we make decisions on such funds, we take into careful consideration the effect our decision will have on the taxpayers of this state. These decisions assure a greater return on investment in the fund, thus lowering localities’ contributions, giving taxpayers much-needed relief. Below are a few pieces of legislation that the Assembly passed that maintain the workability and sustainability of pensions.
A5368/S3401 – Permits certain eligible vested members of the NYS teachers’ retirement system in tiers 3 and 4 who have ceased teaching to withdraw from such system and to transfer such credits to another state retirement system; requires return of accumulated member contributions. This bill would ensure the savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars in administrative funds and taxpayer dollars.
A5369/S3402 – In order to help control employer contributions to the state’s retirement plans and ultimately save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Assembly passed a measure to allow retirement funds to increase to ten percent the amount of assets which may be invested in real estate.
A7834/S5651 – Streamlines and reforms the minimum amount of time required before a service retirement may become effective and retirees of certain retirement systems may begin to receive their retirement. Over the course of time, this measure is intended to streamline benefit processing within the system and ultimately save taxpayers of this state money through administrative savings.
A4954/S5098 – Provides continuous coverage at the same rate to spouses or dependents of public employees who are injured in the performance of duty or taken ill as a result of a performance of duty until such time as the member has returned to active service, has separated from service or retires.
Chapter 161 of 2011 – Since 1978, the Legislature has passed and the Governor signed into law a cost-of- living increase and a one-year escalation for all New York State widows and widowers of police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty. This bill would provide for another year of such escalation.
Protecting our Public Workforce while on Active Duty
In recognition of their service and sacrifice, the Assembly worked on a bill that would bar employers from abolishing positions occupied by public employees absent on military duty and maintains such positions until that employee comes back to full-time employment. This bill attributes no cost to the taxpayers of the state of New York and provides appropriate recognition to those who are defending our freedom (A1428A).
As we reflect on the 10-year anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11, there is no time more fitting than now to honor these heroes in a fashion that illustrates the commitment, dignity and dedication they have provided to our communities. At the same time, while these individuals give the ultimate sacrifice, many families are left without a father or mother. This year the Assembly passed two bills that would focus on not only the recognition of our fallen, but New York State’s commitment to the families who are left behind. While reviewing these two bills, the Assembly fought for language that would guarantee there would not be any increase of cost to any taxpayer.
A6535/S4739 – The loss of medical insurance to retired individuals is one of the most devastating occurrences, often leaving these people in desperate straits. This bill would allow the surviving spouses or domestic partners of deceased employees of the MTA to retain such coverage by paying 102% of the group rate for such coverage.
A4954/S5098 – Sometimes, when a public employee is injured or becomes ill in the performance of duty, the employer may suspend their health care coverage. Often this employee has alternative coverage that is linked to the injury or illness. The problem arises for the employee’s covered spouse or dependent whose coverage is put in jeopardy. Other affordable health care programs such as Family Health Plus and Child Health Plus are not available to these dependents since those covered by public employer plans are not permitted to participate in these plans. This bill would provide these employees with the necessary coverage that they need.