Editorial: Keep it simple, Albany

Life is full of divergences, but these days in New York they’re rarely as pronounced as when it comes to opinions on the public and private worlds. One man’s working class bread is seen by another as bourgeois cake.

So goes the story of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s push to add a Tier 6 to the state retirement system. While it remains to be seen whether there will be a true showdown on the proposal, the mere idea is certainly sparking a lot of vitriolic debate.

It’s being painted as an attack on New York’s working class by union-backed advertising campaigns. At the same time, proponents of the change characterize the pension system as antiquated, mismanaged and unfair to private-world taxpayers, few of whom have retirement plans with guaranteed benefits.

We could go back and forth like this for weeks. Few workers in the private sector enjoy struggling with tax bills to support a floundering pension system that seems inequitable to them. And for many state employees, Tier 6 and Tier 5 before it are seen as punishments for a recession that was not the fault of workers. Both are right. But ultimately, these costs have put stranglehold on the state’s finances.

The biggest part of Tier 6 is making a move from a defined benefit system (a guaranteed pension) to a 401(k)-like system. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the sole trustee of the state’s $140 billion pension fund, is against it and on the record saying offering state workers a 401(k) option is the wrong move, because it’s not intended to be a rock-solid retirement option like a defined benefit plan.

Well, that’s true. What’s also true is millions of private sector employees make it work by making their own smart investments. Let New York follow the lead of the private sector and give workers more control of their benefits instead of trying to play the part of the wise father, handing out allowances.

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