Secretary-Treasurer Joe Donohue joins other union members to call on legislators to Fix Tier 6
PEF Secretary Treasurer Joe Donahue speaks from a landing in the Million Dollar Staircase at the New York State Capitol during a multi-union Fix Tier 6 rally on March 5, 2024.


March 18, 2024 — The State Senate and Assembly’s “one-house” budget proposals were released on March 11, 2024. PEF has been working hard since Governor Hochul’s State of the State address and release of the Executive Budget proposal in January to advance the needs of PEF members in the final budget, which is due April 1, 2024. 

FIX TIER 6!Thanks to the advocacy of PEF members and lobbying by the PEF Legislative team, several of PEF’s major priorities are reflected in the proposals released by the Senate and Assembly, including support for SUNY Downstate and Tier 6 reform. 

“The New York State Senate Majority provides the support necessary to ensure that the critical services provided by SUNY Downstate Medical Center remain available to the residents of Central Brooklyn while also establishing a working group of stakeholders to develop a sustainability plan for continued long-term operation of the facility as a state-owned and operated entity,” said PEF President Wayne Spence in a press release when the Senate budget was released. “The Senate also advances responsible and affordable improvements to the Tier 6 pension plan designed to increase public sector hiring and retention and reduce the more than $1 billion the state currently spends on overtime compensation due to low staffing.” 

Bills introduced by Senators Zellnor Myrie and Robert Jackson address two of PEF’s top priorities – funding and maintaining SUNY Downstate as a state-run hospital, and reforming Tier 6 of the State pension plan. 

Myrie’s bill (S.8732) creates a commission to modernize Downstate Medical Center. While the Assembly does not yet have a corresponding bill, there is other legislation in the Assembly’s budget that provides aid to the Brooklyn hospital.

Tier 6 reform is included in both one-house budgets. The major change involves reducing the final average salary calculation from five years to three. A three-year final average salary calculation is what Tier 4 members enjoy. Currently, the final average salary calculation for Tier 6 members is based on the last five years of a members’ employment. 

Additionally, a new Senate bill extends legislation enacted during the pandemic to exclude overtime from pension contribution rates. Since April 2022, the exclusion of overtime has resulted in lower pension contribution rates for those in Tier 6. The legislation is set to sunset on April 1, 2024, and the proposed extension would move that sunset to March 31, 2026. 

Other PEF-supported policies in the one-house budgets include: 

    • Expanding revenue for the Department of Labor to enforce violations and protect workers and businesses (Senate) 
    • $22 million to add 125 state-operated beds to the Office of Mental Health (Senate & Assembly): 
    • Rejection of the Governor’s request to allow her to close up to five State correctional facilities with only 90-days notice (Assembly); 
    • A rejection of Interstate Nurse Licensure Compacts and steps to regulate Artificial Intelligence at state agencies (Senate & Assembly); 
    • Ending the lag payroll and salary deferral program, which results in new employees not receiving their first paycheck for weeks after their hire date (Senate & Assembly); 

PEF members can do their part by continuing to pressure lawmakers to support PEF’s priorities. Nearly 2,000 members have emailed their legislators demanding fixes to Tier 6 of the pension plan, but there are seven other active letter-writing campaigns available on the union website – from saving SUNY Downstate, to keeping retiree healthcare costs in check, to stopping the fast tracking of prison closures. Click here to read about them all and make your voice heard in Albany