Hochul veto bill that would extend pension benefits to rangers and conservation officers

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ALBANY – Governor Kathy Hochul has vetoed a bill to establish the retirement eligibility of rangers and environmental conservation officers on a par with other law enforcement agencies of State.

Hochul attributed his rejection to his view that benefit adjustments should be negotiated. She added that the state budget did not include funds to offset the cost.

The bill provided for a one-time contribution of $ 48.2 million. The first annual contribution ending in March would have cost about $ 4.7 million, according to the law.

Hochul’s layoff disappointed lawmakers and the New York Police Benevolent Association, who said the longer length of service required for pension benefits made it more difficult to recruit and retain environmental officers, by especially in the north of the state. A vote of exemption seems unlikely.

State Senator Andrew Gournardes, a Democrat from Brooklyn, introduced the measure to make the benefit available after 20 years of service, five years earlier than today. He reportedly covered environmental conservation officers, park rangers, state environmental conservation department police officers, regional state park police, and university police.

Matthew Krug, director of environmental conservation officers and investigators for the PBA, said state police and other agencies were getting many more applicants for higher paying jobs and earlier retirement. Fewer than 2,000 candidates took the civil service exam for conservation officers in 2019, Krug said, while 18,000 people took the state police exam. The governor’s veto was another blow to his colleagues, who work in shifts with more than 60 vacancies statewide, Krug said.

The bill would be very beneficial for recruiting officers for the New York City area, said Krug, where more investigators are needed to collect evidence of industrial pollution crimes and control the illegal trade in endangered species. It would also help with recruiting in the upstate, he said, where tasks continue to grow.

Late last year, Hochul signed a bill giving DEC officers the task of inspecting boats for invasive species. Similar regulations concerning the transport of firewood were adopted a few years ago.

“They don’t give us extra people to apply it,” Krug said. “You can’t keep stacking more stuff. “

Krug, who covers the Washington County area, said a retirement after 20 years of service is desired because of the toll the work can take on officers. He and his colleagues were injured in incidents such as assisting mountain hikers and chasing intruders.

In her Dec. 29 veto, Hochul said she was aware of “growing concern about the current level of pension benefits and its impact on the ability of agencies to recruit and retain the best agents.” She suggested meeting this year to discuss the matter.

Police union spokesperson Michael Bucci said they were ready to negotiate a contract with the governor, saying a deal was almost three years behind schedule. He envisioned the pension plan being part of the next budget negotiations.

In an emailed statement, Gournardes said he looked forward to meetings and did not expect the state legislature to overturn Hochul’s veto despite overwhelming legislative support for the draft. law. Two-thirds of the legislature is expected to vote in favor of overturning a veto, a rare and unexpected event in this case, said MP Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay Lake.

“I think we’re planning to come back and work on it,” Jones said. “We want to keep this workforce. We need that workforce, especially here in the Adirondacks.

State Senator Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, said he understood Hochul’s position on the expense, but still believed she should have signed it. “We should try to support law enforcement in any way we can,” he said.

A version of this story appeared on AdirondackExplorer.org.


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