New York Comptroller Candidates Square Off on Pensions

Thomas P. DiNapoli

The New York State Comptroller serves as the sole trustee of New York’s $176.8 billion retirement system. So it’s not surprising that pensions were among the first issues broached during Wednesday night’s televised debate between the two candidates for Comptroller, incumbent Thomas DiNapoli (D) and newcomer Robert Antonacci (R).

Antonacci voiced several of his gripes with the state’s pension system; he claimed the assumed rate of return was too high and that the system should take on more characteristics of a 401(k)-style plan. From the Democrat and Chronicle:

Antonacci, who since 2007 has served as Onondaga County comptroller, took several opportunities to criticize DiNapoli’s oversight of the system. The pension fund’s assumed rate of return of 7.5 percent, Antonacci said, was too high.

A certified public accountant, Antonacci also said he believes the state should move toward offering defined-contribution retirement plans — what many would think of as a 401k-style plan. State and local-government employees currently receive defined-benefit plans, in which the payout at the time of retirement is determined by a formula and not subject to the whims of the stock market.

“We have to make some fundamental changes to the pension fund, including talking about a defined-contribution plan,” Antonacci said.

DiNapoli disagreed, saying a move to a 401k-style system would hurt working New Yorkers. He touted the performance of the pension fund — which is consistently ranked as one of the best-funded public plans in the country — while acknowledging his office may decide to lower the assumed rate of return in the future.

“Moving to defined contribution would put more and more New Yorkers at risk of not having adequate income in their golden years,” DiNapoli said. “That would be a bad choice for New Yorkers.”

DiNapoli is leading in the polls by 28 percent.

 

Photo by Awhill34 via Wikimedia Commons

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