Q: I've heard that pension protection is a key reason to vote "no" on the Nov. 7 constitutional convention ballot question. How does the state constitution protect my pension?
A: Our New York State pension system is unique. Under our constitution, the agreement between members and the New York State Teachers' Retirement System is a contractual relationship, meaning that by law your benefits can't be diminished. That's a good thing, because it keeps the state and other public employers, like school districts, on track with their required employer contributions to the retirement system. These protections are guaranteed by article 5, section 7, of the state constitution. However, if that provision is eliminated or changed, those protections could go away. And despite rumors to the contrary, current retirees are NOT exempt from pension changes.
New Jersey is a cautionary tale. For decades, state officials underfunded the New Jersey pension system, producing a $40 billion-plus unfunded liability and placing the pension system for New Jersey teachers and government workers on the brink of collapse. Our current constitution guarantees that a similar situation can't happen in New York State. But if that wording is removed, there's no guarantee that New Jersey's reality couldn't become ours.
Q: Where will the constitutional convention question appear on the Nov. 7 ballot?
A: Proposition 1, the constitutional convention question, will appear on the back of your ballot. So when you're in the voting booth, remember to flip your ballot over and look for Proposition 1 on the backside.
Since state citizens have a lot to lose if a constitutional convention takes place, it's vital that you get to the polls on Nov. 7 and vote "no." Your pension and other fundamental rights you enjoy as a New York State citizen, including free public education, the right to unionize and environmental protections, could depend on it.
Holding a constitutional convention gives delegates — mostly career politicians — a free hand to change or completely rewrite the state constitution. Do you really trust political insiders to protect your best interests?
The New York State Constitution protects your pension. On Nov. 7, Proposition 1 asks whether a state constitutional convention should be held. It appears on the back of your ballot. So, flip it over and vote "NO" to safeguard your retirement!