Politico May 14, 2015 at 8:04:03 PM EDT.


Cuomo sides with NYC police, fire unions on disability pay

By COLLEEN LONG

NEW YORK (AP) - Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday he stands behind police and fire unions in a fight to increase the benefits city uniformed workers will receive if they're seriously injured on the job.

The governor's statement to The Associated Press came a day after the unions panned a proposal offered by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

"We owe the brave men and women of our uniform services in New York City the same assurances afforded to every other first responder in the state," Cuomo said.

Before July 2009, city police officers and firefighters received disability retirement benefits equal to 75 percent of their salaries plus any Social Security benefits. After state law changes, all the city's uniformed workers injured on the job get 50 percent of their pay, further decreased depending on any Social Security benefits.

The change means police officers and firefighters hired after 2009 who are seriously injured on the job won't have enough to live on, said Patrick Lynch, head of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the city's largest police union.

No officer is currently affected by the change, which makes the need to amend the law more important because it's only a matter of time, the unions say.

"This is not a perk or a benefit," Lynch said. "This is a moral obligation for City Hall to take care of the officers who risk their lives and are permanently injured doing their jobs."

On Wednesday, the mayor proposed increasing the payout by removing the Social Security offset and calculating the benefit from a higher salary point. City officials say it would cost the city $47 million through fiscal year 2019.

But the unions say it isn't enough - they want to return to 75 percent. City officials say that would cost the city $342 million over the same time frame.

Uniformed Firefighters Association head Steve Cassidy said the mayor's proposal didn't include any input from the unions.

"There was no discussion, no debate, no consult with us ... regarding how this could impact our members," Cassidy said.

The 2009 move was an effort to reduce skyrocketing pension costs statewide. In April 2012, under Cuomo's watch, the lower disability benefit grew to include sanitation workers and correction officers.

Cuomo, who has a history of squashing plans by de Blasio, is now siding with the unions.

"I agree with Pat Lynch that there should be parity for the NYPD should any of those officers be disabled in the line of duty," he told the AP on Thursday. "And it needs to be done one way or another as soon as possible."

De Blasio said his proposal was sound.

"This bill will ensure every uniformed worker - especially those just starting out on the job - is protected by this city after a tragic injury," he said in a statement. "Our brave public servants put their lives on the line each day to protect this city and this bill lets them know: we are there for you too."

Any changes must be approved in Albany.

The governor previously undercut the mayor on a tax meant to pay for his universal pre-kindergarten program and a housing plan at Sunnyside Yards. The two also have fought over charter schools, control over schools and transportation funding.