New York Governor David Patterson dropped a bombshell on two powerful unions yesterday when he unexpectedly vetoed a routine measure that for nearly thirty (30) years had allowed New York city cops and firefighters to retire with generous pensions.

“These are not routine times,” Paterson said in vetoing the “temporary” measure that, since 1981, had been habitually renewed by legislators, giving the Finest and Bravest gold-plated pensions known as “Tier II” even as new, less-generous tiers were created for non-uniformed workers. Paterson added, “Instead of a rubber stamp on a temporary fix, we need to move forward with real reform to the pension system.”

In recent months, the New York Post has detailed the spiraling costs of public-employee pensions and the growing threat they pose to state and local budgets. Paterson’s veto, which caught the lawmakers off guard, was his most aggressive move yet in his push to establish a pared-down pension tier for newly hired employees. Recently, the governor re-introduced his cost-saving pension proposal, which legislators flatly rejected during this year’s budget negotiations. In fact, Paterson estimates that his proposal for a new pension tier would save the state $48 billion over the next thirty (30) years. 

Labor unions and their allies in the Legislature said they were blindsided by the governor’s veto and argued that state and local governments will see no savings from the move because it’s unclear which pension tiers new cops and firefighters would join. According to Civil Service Committee Chairwoman Diane Savino, who sponsored the bill, “There was no cost to extending the current system. We don’t know what the cost would be. We don’t know what the savings will be.” 

The bill passed overwhelmingly, 136-6 in the Assembly and 58-0 in the Senate, leading to talk of a veto override, which requires a two-thirds majority of each house. 

The savings would come from, among other items, raising the minimum retirement age and banning overtime “spiking,” where workers run up OT in their final years to boost pension payouts.

As one can expect, developments such as these do not bode well for public safety officers across the county, to include those of our state. As detailed in previous entries, public pension reform has become an important topic, especially during these tough economic times. This article illustrates the types of responses that are being taken by government in response to the issue and the resulting effect upon public safety officers. Please continue to check this blog periodically to ascertain updates in regard to this matter.

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Photo of Donald C. Barbati Donald C. Barbati

Donald C. Barbati is a shareholder of Crivelli, Barbati & DeRose, L.L.C. His primary practice revolves around the representation of numerous public employee labor unions in various capacities to include contract negotiation, unfair labor practice litigation, contract grievance arbitration, and other diverse issues…

Donald C. Barbati is a shareholder of Crivelli, Barbati & DeRose, L.L.C. His primary practice revolves around the representation of numerous public employee labor unions in various capacities to include contract negotiation, unfair labor practice litigation, contract grievance arbitration, and other diverse issues litigated before the courts and administrative tribunals throughout the State of New Jersey. In addition, Mr. Barbati also routinely represents individuals in various types of public pension appeals, real estate transactions, and general litigation matters. He is a frequent contributor to the New Jersey Public Safety Officers Law Blog, a free legal publication designed to keep New Jersey public safety officers up-to-date and informed about legal issues pertinent to their profession. During his years of practice, Mr. Barbati has established a reputation for achieving favorable results for his clients in a cost-efficient manner.

Mr. Barbati has also handled numerous novel legal issues while representing New Jersey Public Safety Officers. Most notably, he served as lead counsel for the Appellants in the published case In re Rodriguez, 423 N.J. Super. 440 (App. Div. 2011). In that case, Mr. Barbati successfully argued on behalf of the Appellants, thereby overturning the Attorney General’s denial of counsel to two prison guards in a civil rights suit arising from an inmate assault. In the process, the Court clarified the standard to be utilized by the Attorney General in assessing whether a public employee is entitled to legal representation and mandated that reliance must be placed on up-to-date information.

Prior to becoming a practicing attorney, Mr. Barbati served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Linda R. Feinberg, Assignment Judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Mercer Vicinage. During his clerkship Mr. Barbati handled numerous complex and novel substantive and procedural issues arising from complaints in lieu of prerogative writs, orders to show cause, and motion practice. These include appeals from decisions by planning and zoning boards and local government bodies, bidding challenges under the Local Public Contract Law, Open Public Records Act requests, the taking of private property under the eminent domain statute, and election law disputes. In addition, Mr. Barbati, as a certified mediator, mediated many small claims disputes in the Special Civil Part.

Mr. Barbati received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, magna cum laude, from Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Upon graduating, Mr. Barbati attended Widener University School of Law in Wilmington, Delaware. In 2007, he received his juris doctorate, magna cum laude, graduating in the top five percent of his class. During law school, Mr. Barbati interned for the Honorable Joseph E. Irenas, Senior United States District Court Judge for the District of New Jersey in Camden, New Jersey, assisting on various constitutional, employment, and Third Circuit Court of Appeals litigation, including numerous civil rights, social security, and immigration cases.