Facing possible cuts to retiree benefits, the Retired Public Employees Association is taking shots at Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Start-Up NY initiative, which will allow new businesses or ones that are expanding to operate tax free for the first 10 years. That means no income taxes, no business and corporate taxes, no state or local taxes, no sales and property taxes and no franchise fees.
The group is urging lawmakers to reject Cuomo’s “effort to decrease retiree benefits in order to raise revenue” for Start-Up NY and other state initiatives. Under a longstanding agreement, the state requires retirees to enroll in Medicare, which makes the state’s New York State Health Insurance Plan the secondary insurer. Retirees have to pay Medicare Part B premiums in addition to the NYSHIP premiums, so the state reimburses for the Medicare piece. Cuomo’s proposed $137 billion budget for 2014-15 would require retirees to pay more for their health insurance.
Edward C. Farrell, executive director of the Retired Public Employees Association, said it would be unfair to take the benefits away. The percentage of premiums state retirees pay for health insurance was increased as a result of a new Civil Service Employees Association contract in 2011, he said.
“Why on earth would you want to give ten years of paying zero taxes to new employees who move here at the expense of retirees who have spent their entire careers living and working in New York, delivering essential services to the people of New York? It makes no sense and is, in fact, insulting,” he said.
The Retired Public Employees Association is recommending that the percentages be rolled back and any increases should apply to future retirees only. There are more than 400,000 retirees of the New York State and Local Retirement System. The average pension is $20,000, the association said.
“Retirees remain an important part of the fabric which is New York. With the state projecting budget surpluses in the billions, we should not be looked upon as cash cows, which we are not,” Farrell said. “Retirees have paid their fair share throughout their careers and continue to do so in retirement.”
Cuomo proposed his budget plan in January. Lawmakers have until the end of the fiscal year, March 31, to adopt one for 2014-15.
(Gannett file photo of the New York State Capitol.)