Pension LoansFuture New York state employees will have fewer retirement benefits because state legislators voted for cutting them in a move that undercuts the power of labor unions.



The public pension cuts were among measures sought by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as the state grapples with budget problems. New York is not alone. Across the nation, financial woes are forcing states to take a close look at public pension and health care costs, often resulting in tough fights between the government and labor unions. The National Conference of State Legislatures found 43 states made major changes to public retirement plans from 2009 to 2011.



New York’s cutbacks will save the state and local governments more than $80 billion over the next 30 years, officials said. The policy change raises the age at which state workers can retire from 62 to 63 years. Most public state workers will also have to pay more into their pension. Lawmakers left intact the retirement coverage for New York City firefighters and police officers.



Also, new state employees who earn at least $75,000 and who are not members of a labor union will be offered the option to forgo the traditional pension package and instead use a defined contribution plan that functions like a 401(K) program.



Although labor unions were unhappy with the changes, local governments were pleased. Across the state, local governments have been struggling with ballooning pension and health care costs and often complain about state mandates that require local tax dollars. They saw the changes in public pension policy as necessary to help control growing expenses.



The pension legislation was just one of many policy changes the Legislature enacted. Lawmakers also adopted state redistricting maps, opened the door to up to seven Las-Vegas style casino gambling sites and voted to expand the state’s criminal DNA database to collect samples from anyone convicted of a crime, not just felons. They made an exception for anyone without a previous criminal record who is found guilty of a misdemeanor charge of possessing marijuana. Lawmakers also agreed to create a bipartisan redistricting panel after the 2020 census.

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