Council likely to override mayoral veto of DROP legislation tomorrow

City Council appears poised to tomorrow override Mayor Nutter’s veto of a bill they passed in the spring that would preserve the controversial DROP retirement perk, while reducing some of the costs.

“I expect there will be a vote tomorrow and I expect there will be an override,” said Councilwoman Marian Tasco.

Council's bill passed 14-3, meaning they should easily have the 12 votes needed to override a mayoral veto. The legislation would delay entry into the Deferred Retirment Option Plan for non-uniform workers and would lower the earned interest rate for all future participants. Council's consultant predicted that the changes would carry a one-time cost of $15 million to $20 million.

But Nutter has repeatedly said he wants to see DROP fully eliminated and will not entertain any compromise legislation. If the current Council won’t consider that option, he is expected to push for DROP-ending legislation in 2012, when there will be at least six new Council members.

DROP allows city workers to set a retirement date up to four years in the future, at which point their pension benefit is frozen and they start accruing payments in an interest-bearing account while on the payroll. When the employees retire, they collect a lump sum and start receiving pension payments.

DROP has drawn public ire because elected officials have enrolled - including some who signed up, ran for re-election and "retired" for a day to collect a payout before returning to serve. Seven Council members are current or past DROP enrollees. Five chose not to run again, and Councilman Frank Rizzo lost his re-election bid, leaving Tasco as the only one planning to take DROP and return in 2012.

Cost estimates of DROP vary. A Boston College study commissioned by Nutter reported last year that DROP had cost the city $258 million since 1999. A later review by Council's consultant put the cost at $100 million.

This is not the first time Council has overridden one of Nutter’s vetoes. They previously overrode a veto of a bill allowing paramedics to remain in the fire union and a bill requiring the city to pick up all police costs for the events.

It still isn’t clear if Councilman Bill Greenlee has the votes to override Nutter’s veto of legislation that would require employers in the city to provide paid sick leave. Greenlee said he was continuing to seek support.