ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — Outgoing Gov. Andrew Cuomo has filed for retirement with less than a week left to go before he leaves office.
A spokesperson from the New York State Comptroller’s office confirmed Wednesday that Cuomo filed for retirement, effective September 1.
According to the comptroller’s office on eligibility, benefit, and filing in the state’s pension system, the retirement application must be on file with the comptroller’s office at least 15 days, but not more than 90 before the date on which the retirement is to occur. Although it doesn’t impact the 63-year-old Cuomo, the 15-day filing requirement is waived if an applicant is over the age of 70 at retirement.
The governor maintains that he never touched anyone inappropriately, but after mounting calls for his resignation from federal, state, and local officials, plus an ongoing impeachment inquiry in the New York State Assembly, the governor said it was in the best interest of New Yorkers if he steps down.
The governor’s resignation is set to take effect on Tuesday, at which time Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will be sworn in and become the first female governor in New York state history.
Cuomo’s annual pension benefit is estimated to be as much as $50,000 per year. Unless he’s convicted of a felony or a bill passes to amend the state constitution and retroactively claw back the payments, they’ll last for the rest of the resigning leader’s life. The governor’s current salary is $250,000.
Tim Hoefer, the president and CEO of the Empire Center, explained how he used his think tank’s calculator to reach that $50,000 annual pension figure.
“What you need to know as a user is the age of retirement, the number of years worked that count towards the pension, the final average salary—which is the average of the three highest years—and then, roughly, when the person was hired,” Hoefer said.
A statement from the comptroller’s office last week said an online pension calculator is more or less an estimate, not a final determination:
“The New York State and Local Retirement System does not provide estimates as to what the pension would be for someone (too many variables, they can select several different options if they want to leave a benefit for family members.
Andrew Cuomo is a Tier 4 member of the New York State and Local Employees’ Retirement System. As of June 30, 2021 he has 14.48 years of service credit (unaudited).
We do have an online calculator but please note, the numbers are not final and they are only used an estimate.“
Neither resignation nor impeachment constitutes grounds to strip a governor’s pension. Hoefer explained that felony charges have to be filed, followed by a conviction. They would be just step one of a lengthy process.
“Step number two is that, then, whoever brings that initial case — whether it’s the Attorney General or a district attorney — needs to bring a separate legal proceeding to go after the pension under the Public Integrity Reform Act,” Hoefer said.
The process doesn’t stop there. The State Comptroller then has to verify eligibility and estimated benefits. “Then the court has the authority—though they’re not required—to reduce or revoke the pension if that’s their finding,” Hoefer added.
The proposed bill by Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara and Sen. James Skoufis would amend New York’s constitution and remove pensions from impeached officials. To be enacted, that bill must pass both houses in two consecutive legislative sessions, then earn the support of voters on a subsequent ballot.
This would be a multi-year process, but it would also be retroactive. That means it would affect Cuomo’s pension if he’s successfully impeached.