NYS Legislature Introduces 130 Benefit Sweetener Bills
For the remaining seven weeks of the legislative session, members of the Assembly and Senate will devote their energies to moving bills through the legislative process, including proposals to enhance the benefits of State and local public employees and retirees. All of these bills should be rejected because they would increase taxpayers’ liabilities without improving services. Given the State’s recent revenue shortfalls and precarious financial outlook, legislating State or local employee benefit increases outside the budget process would be particularly imprudent.
The 2019 edition of the Citizens Budget Commission Benefit Sweetener Scorecard identifies 130 such bills active this session, which could cost the State and local governments at least $399 million in the first year (for the full scorecard and download link, click here). The exact cost cannot be determined since two-thirds of the bills are not accompanied by the required fiscal impact statement, or the fiscal impact statement does not provide a cost estimate.
Bills to enhance pension benefits are most common. Other costly bills would increase disability benefits, enhance death benefits, grant additional paid leave, or expand eligibility or limit changes to health insurance benefits. Some bills apply to public and private employers, and certain proposals countermand recent hard fought compromises between the State and organized labor that decreased pension and health insurance costs in exchange for avoiding layoffs.
Last year 12 benefit sweeteners passed both houses of the legislature, and the Governor appropriately vetoed all 12 bills. As the legislative session continues, CBC will update the scorecard to monitor the status of each proposal and add new bills as necessary.