need to know to protect your pension.
PARA letter to members: “Why PARA is worried about a NYS
Constitutional Convention -
and Q & A about the NYS ConCon Ballot Referendum:
Q: Why is the referendum whether or not to have a state
constitutional convention going to be on the NYS ballot on
November 7, 2017?
A: The NYS Constitution requires that this referendum be on the
ballot every twenty years.
Q: Is a constitutional convention the only way to make
amendments to the NYS Constitution?
A: No. New York is one of 49 states that can make amendments to
its state’s constitution through a process called a
legislatively referred constitutional amendment. To learn more:
Q: If there is a “yes” vote on November 7, 2017 to hold a NYS
ConCon by a majority of NYS voters, what would happen next?
A: A year later, on election day November 6, 2018, New Yorkers
elect the 204 delegates to the convention. On April 2, 2019,
the convention delegates convene and propose amendments for
ratification. On election day November 5, 2019, New Yorkers
vote on every amendment proposed by the convention.
Q: Is there an extra cost to NYS Taxpayers to convene a
A: Yes. Based on costs associated with the last NYS ConCon held
in 1967, and adjusted for today's technological requirements to
support it, plus salaries, administration and potential
increases in the pensions for NYS officials who may also serve
as delegates to the ConCon, the cost to NYS taxpayers could
reach $100 million or more.
Q: How would I know what could be on the agenda if there is a
A: You wouldn’t. There is no advance agenda. The agenda is
determined by the elected delegates.
Q: Is my NYS pension protected by the NYS Constitution?
A: Yes. In ARTICLE V, Section 7 [Membership in retirement
systems; benefits not to be diminished nor impaired] it states:
"After July first, nineteen hundred forty, membership in any
pension or retirement system of the state or of a civil division
thereof shall be a contractual relationship, the benefits of
which shall not be diminished or impaired. (New. Adopted by
Constitutional Convention of 1938 and approved by vote of the
people November 8, 1938.)"
Q: Can the protection provided by this section, called a
"non-impairment clause" be changed in any way during a NYS
Q: If I live in NYS, my pension is not taxed. Where is that
provision in the NYS Constitution?
A: Correct. ARTICLE XVI, Section 5 [Compensation of public
officers and employees subject to taxation] states: " All
salaries, wages and other compensation, except pensions, paid to
officers and employees of the state and its subdivisions and
agencies shall be subject to taxation. (Amended by vote of the
people November 6, 2001.)"
Q: Can this exemption be changed or eliminated during a NYS
Q: Is there an argument for the other side – that a “yes”
vote for a NYS ConCon would not hurt public employees?
A: Yes. There are advocates at far ends of the political
spectra for holding a NYS ConCon. Here is a blog post
discussing why a ConCon would not take away public employee
rights. PARA does not believe any risk to our earned benefits is
worth a dice roll. But please read this to be more informed.
However, we suggest strongly that you read this opinion piece by
a veteran of the NYS Assembly who notes the risk of outside
influence such as what has happened in Wisconsin and other
Q: I heard that the ConCon referendum question was going to
be on the back of the ballot. Is that true?
A: It could be. A law suit was filed by Evan Davis, former
counsel to Gov. Mario Cuomo to ensure that the ConCon referendum
question would be on the front of the ballot. Mr. Davis is pro
having a NYS ConCon.
Q: Messages having been going around on Facebook and in email
groups saying that if a voter does not vote “yes” or “no” for
convening a NYS ConCon, it counts as a “yes” automatically. Is
A: Absolutely not. Leaving the yes/no boxes blank counts as
skipping the question altogether. PARA confirmed this with the
Chief of Staff at the Rockefeller Institute of Government and
the NYS Board of Elections.
Click Here for document from
NYS Board of Elections in answer to this question.
Q: I don’t live in NYS, but I want to help make sure there is
a “no” vote on the NYS ConCon ballot referendum. What can I do?
A: If you have family or friends living in NYS, make sure they
are registered to vote, and then share this information with
them. Send them a copy of this letter:
Here are more
important sources for you to read:
Retired Public Employees Association (RPEA):
Q and A about the NYS Constitution and a Constitutional
White Paper: Constitutional Ballot Question:
NYS Constitutional Convention Clearinghouse:
The Rockefeller Institute of Government: