New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Politico De Blasio drives campaign themes, even after campaign is over by By JOE ANUTA

De Blasio drives campaign themes, even after campaign is over

Mayor Bill de Blasio officially dropped his bid for the White House last week, but on Monday he rallied for legislation that could have been plucked from his campaign and discussed plans to continue crisscrossing the country to promote progressive causes.

The bill would create a system that automatically enrolls workers at companies with 10 or more employees into individual retirement accounts. A mayoral board would oversee the program and hire a private financial management firm to handle the pre-tax money withheld from workers' paychecks. Neither employers nor the city would have to chip into the fund, and firms that already offer a retirement program would be exempt. Employees who are put into the program can choose to opt out or change their contribution rate, which would automatically start at 3 percent.

“We have people all over this city who … are retired and they don’t know if they’re going to be able to make it, or they are working and they don’t know if they’ll ever be able to retire,” de Blasio said at Monday’s rally. “This is not what we signed up for, everyone. This is not the American dream.”

The bill is one of two long-stalled legislative concepts that the mayor pulled from political limbo for inclusion in his January State of the City speech, which in turn provided talking points for his presidential campaign. A bill guaranteeing 10 days of paid vacation, for example, gathered dust in the Council for half a decade before being embraced by de Blasio this year. The mayor repeatedly promised on the stump that the legislation would pass before the end of the year.

Retirement security was first proposed in 2015. While de Blasio appeared at a rally in support of the plan in 2016, the concept ran into uncertainty when the Trump administration later rolled back Obama-era guidance about creating and operating these types of initiatives.

Now, both are at the top of de Blasio’s agenda, despite significant legislative headwinds.

Neither policy has broad backing in the Council. Speaker Corey Johnson, who is eyeing a mayoral run in 2021, said he supports both concepts but is not on board with the way the bills are written.

“Far too many people in this city are unprepared for retirement," said Council spokesperson Breeana Mulligan in a statement Monday. "He will monitor this bill as it goes through the legislative process.”

The measures have also failed to attract a significant number of cosponsors, despite some lobbying efforts by the mayor's office. De Blasio has been publicly pressuring Johnson on paid personal leave, which he promised on the campaign trail would pass before the end of the year. And Monday’s rally indicates he will now likely be cranking up the heat on retirement security as well.

The Trump administration raised an additional hurdle this month when it filed a lawsuit looking to undo California’s system, which also automatically enrolls workers into an IRA. The outcome of that case could affect any program the city might try to launch, though Council Member Ben Kallos, a sponsor of the legislation, said the bill language is being crafted to avoid legal pitfalls.

While de Blasio's campaign is finished, he plans to keep operating a political action committee that has attracted scrutiny from the Federal Election Commission. On Monday, he said he'll use it to continue pushing many of the policies that he touted on the campaign trail, such as new taxes to offset automation and legislative efforts aimed at helping blue-collar and low-wage workers.

“I will keep fighting here in New York City to make the lives of New Yorkers better, and I will keep fighting on the national level for the changes that we need for New York City and for our country,” de Blasio said.

And while the mayor's national ambitions have attracted criticism and hurt his poll numbers at home, Kallos has maintained that de Blasio's desire for a national platform can be a useful tool for helping push legislation through the Council.

“With the mayor on the campaign trail, I think there is an opportunity to get a lot of these big ideas like paid personal time and pensions for all done," Kallos told POLITICO earlier this month. "It puts New York City at the forefront as a national leader, and it only bolsters the mayor's credentials as he runs."

 

 

 

 

 

 

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