Re: A Few Bright Lights...
Dear friends of fiscal sanity,
Among New York State legislators there are A Few Bright Lights willing to take steps towards fiscal responsibility in budget matters. New Yorkers for Growth is pleased to highlight an Assemblyman who, despite winning his seat with only a narrow margin of victory (with our help), had the guts to introduce a major piece of reform legislation: repeal of the infamous Triborough Amendment.
We've told you that NYS taxpayers can't afford a law stacking the deck in favor of public sector unions one minute longer. New York State has the most unionized public sector in the country, and public sector pay and benefits continue climbing while our State's economy and revenue fall. Our out-of-control public sector costs are largely due to the Triborough Amendment, a uniquely insane piece of legislation which requires that the lucrative terms of old union contracts continue in effect until new contracts are signed. Triborough forces cash-strapped local governments to keep paying for benefits like annual step increases to salary and full health insurance coverage without any employee premiums or copays. For New York's public sector, the old contract is always effectively the baseline in union negotiations. True fiscal reform isn't possible with the Triborough Amendment as the law.
Assemblyman Robert Castelli was an upset victor for the 89th Assembly District in a Special Election in February 2010. And then, with great political courage, Assemblyman Castelli ignored the nervous whispers and admonishment of many of his colleagues and proposed legislation to repeal the Triborough Amendment. As a result of the backlash, he only won narrow reelection by 112 votes in November 2010.
On January 5, 2011, he reintroduced the bill to repeal the Triborough Amendment. NYFG is proud to say that we endorsed Assemblyman Castelli and provided him with financial support in both his campaigns. Here's a little bit about him and his effort.
NYFG: You fought in Vietnam, you fought organized crime as a member of the State Police, and then you went to the Kennedy School and started teaching college students about criminal justice and security. That seems an unlikely background for State office. What made you run?
R.C.: I've spent the entirety of my adult life in the service of my country, and my community. I view this as simply an extension of my previous service. Right now, I think New York is in fiscal crisis and needs creative thinkers with strong voices to achieve real reform. I hope my background gives me both the creativity and the political will to move the State forward. I don't want to be another career politician whose number one priority is the preservation of his seat.
We need people who aren't afraid to upset New York's status quo. We in elected office need to stop viewing our taxpayers, whether on Main Street or Wall Street, as the State's private ATM. We tax and spent ourselves into a problem. Now, it its time to scrimp and save ourselves out of it.
NYFG: Why repeal Triborough and why now?
R.C.: New York's taxpayers are currently at an extreme disadvantage due to State mandates like Triborough. Any comprehensive solution which provides tax relief must include reforms to the most challenging unfunded and under-funded State mandates by granting our municipalities greater flexibility.
Triborough was passed in 1986, with the intent of codifying the Triborough Doctrine, a judicial precedent, established over time, that protected certain benefits that had been collectively bargained for. However, the Triborough Amendment itself went far beyond the Triborough Doctrine, to include benefits that were not covered by the Triborough Doctrine, such as step-increases, and we simply can't afford it anymore.
Now that our economy is suffering, we need to be able to reel back in some of these costs and bring unions to the table for compromises that we can all live with.
Triborough undermines the collective bargaining process and discourages those at the negotiating table from making givebacks or concessions, putting New York's taxpayers at an extreme disadvantage. No other state has anything like the Triborough law.
Public employers and employees should be encouraged to work together, to achieve labor contracts that are both fair and affordable.
NYFG: How many supporters do you have now for repeal of Triborough, real or potential?
R.C.: I've got 8 co-sponsors: Jane Corwin, Dan Burling, Dr. Steve Katz, Steve Hawley, Steve McLaughlin, Joel Miller, Al Graf, and Claudia Tenney; and 4 multi-sponsors: Ken Blankenbush, Andy Goodell, Phil Palmesano and Bill Reilich. Everything in the Assembly needs to be done on a very bipartisan basis, and this issue is no different.
Assuming we had all the Republicans, we'd need 1/3rd of the Democratic Members to reach the 76 votes needed to pass it.
The only way we can get these votes is with the Governor's backing. The Governor's Mandate Relief Team, which has been reestablished as the Mandate Relief Council, initially expressed a willingness to reexamine Triborough. The group's Chair, Larry Schwarz, said that "maybe there's something for the next two or three years that can be done and revert back. We have to be at least willing to discuss them."
In response to that, I authored legislation to suspend Triborough for two years, believing that initial step might be easier to accomplish.
I applaud the stakeholders from business, labor, education and government who comprise the Council, for their willingness to take this issue on, and hope that they will show the type of courage necessary to use the Council's authority to recommend it to the Governor as a program bill. I will continue to work with my colleagues to advocate for these and other reforms to reduce both the size and cost of government.
NYFG: Short of the Governor's backing, is there anything else the taxpayers can do to push the wait-and-see Members of the Assembly into supporting your bill?
R.C.: I've also introduced a bill to identify and quantify mandates from the State that are pushed down to local governments and drive up costs. There's little transparency on these costs now and everyone needs to know exactly how costly these mandates are, including Triborough.
Apart from that, getting the word out to people to support candidates with the intestinal fortitude to fight these fights is key.
NYFG commends Assemblyman Castelli and asks you to support him at www.castelli2012.com. and NYFG in this effort.
Many thanks for your continued good judgement and support,
New Yorkers for Growth