The Chief
August 19, 2005

Cancer Bill For Police and EMS Nixed by Pataki

Pension Costs Cited By City Helped Trigger Veto

By Reuven Blau

Governor Pataki last week vetoed a bill that would have created a presumption that lung disease or certain cancers incurred by city Police Officers and Emergency Medical Service personnel are job-related.

The Governor cited the Bloomberg administration’s strong opposition to the measure in rejecting the legislation. The city lobbied against the bill, contending that it would unnecessarily increase pension costs by $3.2 million each year.

Lynch: City Hyped Cost

A fiscal note attached to the bill, prepared by former City Actuary Jonathan Schwartz, asserted it would only cost the city approximately $400,000 in fiscal year 2005-06.

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch said he was disappointed the Governor rejected the legislation. “The city drastically overestimated the cost of the program,” he asserted.

The measure stipulated that any of the city’s 22,000 cops and 3,000 medical technicians and supervisors who incur specific diseases and cancers would be eligible for a tax-free disability pension equal to 75 percent of their salary.

Firefighters already benefit from a similar lung and cancer presumption bill, which was signed into law on April 26, 1993.

The PBA and Uniformed Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics Local 2507 and District Council 37 argued that their members should also be included because they are regularly exposed to hazardous fumes and materials that have been scientifically proven to cause certain cancers.

“They do different jobs, but the types of exposure are very similar,” remarked Robert Ungar, legislative counsel for Local 2507.

He pointed out that EMT’s are often called to the scene of fires and are exposed to the surrounding fumes and airborne contaminants.

Cancers Covered

The types of cancer that would be covered by the bill are: melanoma, and any condition of cancer affecting the lymphatic, digestive, hematological, urinary, neurological, breast, reproductive or prostate systems.

In a letter to the Governor, Mayor Bloomberg said that the city opposed the presumption measure since there is “no valid medical or scientific basis” for believing that Police Officers sustain higher incidences of lung disease or cancer than the general population.

The Mayor also noted that additional unfunded pension bills strain the city’s budget. “Last year alone, an increase in the city’s pension contributions amounted to 47 percent over the prior year’s contribution,” he stated.

If enacted, the city argued, other non-uniformed unions would attempt to seek a similar benefit. “This legislation could create a huge spillover effect to other city employees and retirement systems,” the memo said.

The police and EMT unions said they will re-design the bill to gain the Governor’s approval.