continued “We’re serious about mandate reform, and we’re going to do it,” Cuomo said.
To address pension reform, Cuomo’s budget creates a Tier 6, which allows employees to vest in it after one year instead of 10, is portable, features progressive contribution rates, shared risks/rewards to account for market volatility and seeks to end abuses to the system. Cuomo said it’s 50 percent cheaper to taxpayers than Tiers 3 and 4, and it won’t affect existing union employees, just those that haven’t yet been hired.
“We never said pensions were a lifetime legacy for future employees that haven’t been hired yet,” he said.
The final piece of Cuomo’s executive budget dealt with what he called the “education crisis.”
“We’ve become more interested in the bureaucracy than the student,” he said. “We have to change our thought processes… It’s not about the adults; it’s supposed to be about the student.”
Cuomo’s budget proposed an additional $250 million for competitive grants to school districts, a program he created last year, bringing the total to $800 million. The program targets low-wealth, high-needs districts.
Cuomo was also highly critical of the fact that the state has not yet enacted a teacher evaluation system, noting that it was the promise of that system that netted New York $700 million in federal Race to the Top funds.
“We can’t lose that money,” he said. “We need that.”
He urged the New York State United Teachers and the State Education Department to find a common ground and enact an evaluation system. If they failed to do so within 30 days, Cuomo said the state legislature would set up a system for them. If the local school districts accepted the system by September of 2012, they would be eligible for incentive grants; if they failed to accept it by January of 2013, they would risk forfeiting an increase in education aid in 2013-14.
Cuomo said he was pleased with the budget he presented and the message it sent to all New Yorkers.
“This will lead us to a new New York,” he said.
The final budget must be approved by the state legislature by April 1.