Niagara Gazette

October 29, 2013

CONFER: A look at state Props 2, 3 and 6

By Bob Confer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — This week marks the conclusion of my three-part series breaking down the six statewide propositions that New Yorkers will have a chance to vote on next week.

Proposition 2 concerns civil service credits for veterans who became disabled during the course of their wartime duties for the armed forces. Current state law gives veterans additional credit on civil service exams (5 points for original appointment and 2 ½ points for a promotion). Disabled veterans are entitled to additional credits (10 points for original appointment and 5 for promotion).

Under the state constitution, veterans are eligible for only one grant of credits. So, if a vet returned to active duty while employed by the government, and became disabled in war, he could not receive additional credits if he applied for an appointment or promotion. He would forever be locked in at the 5 and 2 ½ levels and could not achieve the 10 and 5 credit levels.

The proposition would fix that by granting the newly disabled veteran an exclusion to the one-time-only clause. He would receive the difference between the two standings and be fully credited to the 10 and 5 marks.

I’ll cast a “yes” vote for this measure because we can’t reward disabled veterans enough for their calling to true civil service. They risked life and limb to make a difference (and suffered a loss of the latter). It’s only fitting they be given the full 10 points. I’d go so far to say they deserve many more.

Proposition 3 would allow a 10-year extension (to 2024) of the current exemption to the constitutional debt limits that municipalities enjoy for construction or reconstruction of sewage facilities. This exemption has been renewed in 10-year increments dating back to 1963.

I will vote “no” on Prop 3. Constitutional debt limits were set for a reason: to ensure towns, villages, cities and counties don’t spend like mad and put undue burden on taxpayers (and future generations) who have to shoulder the debt payments.

Even though the Great Recession has allegedly gone, the upstate economy is still in crisis mode, with weakened and dead employers, and families trying to overcome their own financial struggles. We don’t need to add more debt payments to the high tax loads faced by all.

If you want to add nice things to a community or fix old infrastructure, you must work within your limits and find cuts elsewhere – just as the affected businesses and residents do in their day-to-day lives.

Proposition 6 would increase the maximum age until which state judges may serve as follows: a Supreme Court justice would be eligible for five additional 2-year terms after the present retirement age of 70 (three such terms are currently authorized); and a judge of the Court of Appeals who reaches age 70 while in office would be permitted to remain in for up to another 10 years.

Proponents of Prop 6 say that it makes no sense to force physically and mentally capable seniors out of work as is done now, and that the proposition ensures that the most seasoned and experienced judges remain at the bench. People live far longer than they did in 1869, when this was last amended.

Opponents of Prop 6, including me, dislike it for a variety of reasons. It would create a two-tiered system in which state judges can retire later than local judges, whose retirement age of 70 would remain. The proposition would ultimately add more Supreme Court judges to bloated employment rolls while they have the lightest workload of New York judges.

Proposition 6 also seems like it was selfishly conceived. The person behind its development and push through the state legislature is Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman. If the proposition fails, he has to retire in 2015, and if it passes, he can sit for another 4 years.

Bob Confer is a Gasport resident and vice president of Confer Plastics Inc. in North Tonawanda. Email him at bobconfer@juno.com.