Some New York budget watchdogs are reading between the lines of the feud between Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city’s police force.
What they’re seeing is the emerging possibility that de Blasio may try to smooth over his relations with the police force by boosting pension benefits.
From Crain’s New York:
On Monday, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton noted that some of the issues plaguing cops, in addition to recent shootings and tension with Mayor Bill de Blasio, involve pensions. That worried budget watchdogs that the administration might agree to sweeten pensions.
“Almost a majority of my officers are now in a retirement plan that offers significantly less benefits than their predecessors received,” Mr. Bratton said during a press conference at 1 Police Plaza, noting that then-Gov. David Paterson’s veto of a pension sweetener for cops in 2009 “is having profound implications on officers who were injured in the line of duty.”
With the crisis between cops and City Hall reaching a boiling point, budget watchdogs fear the city is softening its opposition to more generous pensions.
“The police commissioner is out there talking about what the roots of this tension are between the rank-and-file and the mayor’s office, and he’s citing that as something that’s part of the problem that they could potentially be fixing,” said Maria Doulis, director of city studies for the Citizens Budget Commission. “So for us this is signaling change in their position.”
If de Blasio wanted to raise benefits, a bill already exists that would do so. It has been proposed and vetoed several times since 2009, but it could make rounds again. From Crain’s:
A bill was introduced in the state Senate and Assembly last year that would increase disability pensions for police hired after July 2009. It has been introduced annually in response to Mr. Paterson’s veto of a bill to move newly hired officers to the more generous Tier II pension from Tier III.
Members of Tier III work for 22 years, instead of 20, to collect full-service pensions. Their disability benefits are 44% of their last three years of salary with an offset for Social Security benefits, instead of 75% of the final year’s salary with no offset.
Mr. de Blasio said last year that he opposed the bill to bolster pensions for those newer cops. Officials said it could cost $35 million in its first year. But now his office is silent on the issue.
A representative for the mayor did not respond to a question about whether he still opposes the bill.
Read the text of the bill here.