By JON CAMPBELL
ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo took the battle over state pensions directly to city and village mayors on Monday, urging them to push their Senate and Assembly representatives to back his proposal to scale back benefits.
Speaking to the New York Conference of Mayors at its winter meeting, Cuomo reiterated his position that rising pension costs will "bankrupt local governments." He asked the mayors to get involved.
"My plan would reduce the rates and call for more contributions," Cuomo said during his 30-minute speech. "It would save $83 billion in savings to local governments over the next 30 years."
In his budget proposal, Cuomo has sought to create a new pension tier -- Tier VI -- that would raise employee contribution rates, increase the retirement age from 62 to 65, and offer a 401(k)-style option. The tier would apply to new employees.
Cuomo's speech was well received by the conference, but his proposal has received pushback from labor unions and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. The unions, including the state Civil Service Employees Association, have characterized Cuomo's pension push as unfair to middle-class workers.
DiNapoli, who has been highly critical of the 401(k)-type option included in Cuomo's proposal, will address the mayors Monday afternoon.
Speaking before Cuomo took the stage, Conference of Mayors President William Nelson -- the mayor of Ogdensburg, St. Lawrence County -- said the group stands behind the governor's pension proposal. His remark was met with applause and a standing ovation.
"I think we now know that this governor does get mandate relief," said Peter Baynes, executive director of the conference. "With his leadership and with our support, we're going to get the mandate relief the taxpayers deserve."
By JON CAMPBELL