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New York state pension system not designed for private lobbying groups

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It’s time for employees of private organizations to stop padding their nest eggs with public money.

State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-62nd District, Newfane, and Assemblyman Sean M. Ryan, D-149th District, Buffalo, are pursuing legislation to prevent additional state pension benefits from going to people employed by nonprofit groups. It would seem that reserving government perks for those actually employed by the government would be a no-brainer, but we are talking about how things have historically been done in Albany. This means we can’t necessarily presume common sense was in ample supply.

According to a Sunday story on the website for the Post-Standard (www.syracuse.com), more than 100 employees for lobbying groups are in the state pension system. They either work for or are retired from the New York State Conference of Mayors, New York State Association of Counties, New York State Association of Towns and New York State School Boards Association.

This practice is justified under the flimsy argument that since the lobbying done by these groups assists public bodies, their employees should be rewarded with publicly financed benefits. Sen. Maziarz and Assmeblyman Ryan seek to scale this back even more than previous measures did.

“Maziarz and Ryan introduced two bills. The first would prohibit any new employees of the groups from participating in the state retirement system. The second would stop current employees from earning additional retirement benefits. They are not trying to take away past benefits,” according to the Post-Standard’s story. “New York state has allowed these specific groups to be members of the pension fund, although other nonprofits were banned in 1968. The groups were grandfathered in when the law was changed that year to keep nonprofits out, according to a spokesman for Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who oversees the fund.”

Any vendors who provide services to public bodies could make the same claim: What we do helps municipalities, so the state should extend its employee benefits to us.

Nonsense! If local governments want to finance lobbying groups to plead their cases in Albany, that’s their choice. They must budget the revenue needed to keep these organizations afloat.

But for public bodies to expect the state to continue funding the pensions of the employees of private groups is outrageous. Like most other people in the private sector, these people must take responsibility for their own retirement plans.

With at least 90 percent of its public pensions funded, New York state has one of the strongest systems in the country.

But expenses are only going to continue rising, which means more work will be necessary to keep things from moving in the wrong direction. Retaining nongovernment employees in the state pension system is not the way to do this and should be stopped.

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