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Battle Lines Drawn Between N.Y. Government, Public Workers Over Pension Reform

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The intense battle raging in Albany to reform public worker pensions was joined Tuesday by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a bipartisan coalition of local officials who say pensions are choking their budgets and must be slashed.

There is no more dramatic example of the effect of ballooning pension costs than the fact that Nassau County is being force to close four out of its eight police precincts, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that's just the beginning, reports CBS 2's Marcia Kramer.

"Cities and counties in this state could go bankrupt," Cuomo said Tuesday.

And nobody knows that better than Mayor Bloomberg.

"We are all facing a ticking time bomb," he said.

The mayor, who is leading the coalition of local officials to push the Legislature to pass pension reform, said that the current $8 billion pension tab for New York City workers eats up the entire amount collected in city income taxes, and it will get even bigger unless there are pension changes for new workers.

"Over the past decade pension costs have increased more than 600 percent in New York City. In Nassau county pensions have increased 865 percent. In Suffolk the growth has been 904 percent," Bloomberg said.

And think about this: what if the cost of a Long Island Rail Road ticket increased at the same rate as pension costs?

"The price of a one-way ticket from Huntington to Penn Station, which is now $13.50 at rush hour, would be $125," Bloomberg said.

Under the plan being pushed by the governor and mayor all new employees would:

* Pay a little more into their own pension plans

* Have the option of a 401K plan

* Retire at 65 instead of 55

* Be unable to pad their pensions by working overtime

The public employees unions are vehemently opposing the plan, making their arguments with radio ads like the one being run by the New York City Correction officers.

"They're trying to force us to accept a 401K plan that failed on Wall Street not more than two years ago. We will not sit idly by and allow the governor, the mayor, the legislators or anyone else to take away our right that we have fought for and deserve," the ad says.

Pension reform, which affects only new hires, would save the city $30 billion over 30 years. Statewide, it would save $80 billion.

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