Saturday, November 01, 2014

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Mayors gather to discuss budget

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Mayors gather to discuss budget
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Mayors from all over the state traveled to Albany to testify before the first joint legislative budget hearing on the local government portion of Cuomo's proposed spending plan. Capital Tonight's Nick Reisman was at the hearing and has more.

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Mayors of the state's largest cities are split when it comes to Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposal to cut pension costs now at the expense of future savings down the road. Openly skeptical of the idea is Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner. Her position is unusual, given that she's not just a member of Cuomo's Democratic Party, but also his hand-picked party co-chairwoman.

“So before authorizing this program in the budget, I believe that there are questions that should be answered and should be asked and issues that need to be investigated,” Miner said.

Cuomo proposed a plan in his $142.6 billion budget that allows local governments to smooth out their pension costs by establishing a fixed rate. In the near-term, it saves money now, but the benefits of the newly created pension tier won't be as fruitful in the future. Mayors from around the state testifying in Albany on the governor's budget had mixed reactions. But the focus was on Miner and the unusual situation of a party leader openly questioning a popular governor.

Miner said, “I have not found it awkward at all. They are two separate jobs. I am trying to do the best in both jobs and the people of the City of Syracuse elected me to try to guide them through very tough financial times.”

And not everyone is fully on board. Though New York City wouldn't be affected by the program, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in general what's known as pension smoothing is bad policy.

“As a general policy, postponing down the road expenses that you're going to have every year is not a good policy,” Bloomberg said.

But Rochester Mayor Tom Richards had a softer view of the proposal, saying it could help his financially strained city now.

“I got to get through this year and when I looked at the budget and looked at this particular proposal, it's the best thing there to getting us through another couple of years,” Richards said.

Not testifying in Albany on Monday was Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. He was prevented from traveling to the capital city because of inclement weather.

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