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Local News

March 28, 2013

State set to approve budget

Some local officials question option to defer pension costs

(Continued)

The tax rebate program included in the budget package was targeted at middle class New Yorkers, the most influential voters at election time. Under the program, households with children less than 18 years of age and with incomes ranging from $40,000 to $300,000 annually would receive a $350 rebate by Oct. 15, 2014, just a few weeks before the general election. The so-called middle class tax cut would reduce state revenues by $1.1 billion over three years.

The new budget framework also gives struggling counties saddled with rising public employee pension obligations a new option of deferring payments to the pension system in the short term, while extending the payback period to 12 years.

However, both Otsego County acting Treasurer Russ Bachman and Schoharie County Treasurer William Cherry voiced strong reservations with the new option.

“You’d be taking current expenses and turning it into a liability that you’d be paying at a future time,” Bachman said.

“You’re basically mortgaging the future,” Cherry said. “The retirement system is going to get their money one way or the other. You’d be kicking the can down the road. All it does is add interest to your cost.”

Groups advocating for greater transparency in government criticized lawmakers for hatching several significant budget deals behind closed doors. The Senate passed a number of bills in the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday, prompting one legislator, Sen. Terry Gipson, D-Rhinebeck, to suggest his colleagues were acting on “vampire bills.”

Delaware County Social Services Commissioner William Moon said it will likely take days for the public to gain a full understanding of the many details in the thousands of pages of budget bills.

Moon said public assistance programs — at least from early reviews — are apparently being spared of the cuts they have consistently taken over the past five years.

“These bills are passed in such a a fast and furious way that it makes it very difficult for people running major programs and who can’t send a staff person to Albany to really know what’s in them,” he said. “I’ll probably be able to get up to speed in a week or so. One thing I can say is that when they start restoring some of our funding that will be a day to cheer.”

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