NEW YORK, NY In a last-minute move, the City Council threw its support behind Mayor de Blasio’s contentious plans for pensions for injured cops and firefighters with a vote on Wednesday.
The divided Council sided with the mayor instead of a more generous plan favored by unions that would fully restore the benefits that newly-hired officers got before 2009.
“We are proud to support a plan that strikes a fair balance between safeguarding our city’s uniformed officers and our city’s finances,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who brushed off charges that the body had bent over backwards to push through de Blasio’s bill.
“This is not about doing anyone’s bidding,” she said. “This is about being responsible to the city of New York financially, while taking care of our officers.”
The “home rule” message giving instructions to Albany, which has the final say, passed by a vote of 31-17, with three members abstaining.
The mayor’s proposal would give service members hired after 2009 75% of their salary if they qualify for Social Security disability, and 50% if they don’t. It would improve upon current disability benefits, but unions want everyone to get the same 75% regardless of when they’re hired. They also want illnesses like cancer and lung disease to be considered job-related.
The Council’s move came as fire and police unions had traveled to Albany for a major rally on the same issue, and a notice went out that the item had been added to the agenda just half an hour before a committee meeting.
“This is blatantly unfair. How do you justify paying the New York City police officers and firefighters less than anyone else in the state? There is no rationale for it whatsoever,” he said. ”I understand the state had a fiscal crisis but you have to be fair, you have to be decent with people.”
Cuomo later said he hoped de Blasio and union heads would reach a deal on the issue, since there’s no guarantee state legislation will pass by the end of the session next week.
“I am hopeful that they can reach an agreement. If they don’t reach an agreement, the state is a potential fallback but is far from a done deal on the state side,” the governor said.
De Blasio seized on the Council vote to tout his own plan and said unions are asking for too much.
“The plan that has been put forward by the unions would take us back to so many of the excesses of the past that led us to the reality of huge long-term liabilities,” he said. “New York City has spoken. Both the mayor and the City Council have spoken with one voice.”