Advocates and lawmakers joined forces at the state Capitol on Tuesday to rally for reform to the state’s pension system.

Beginning in 2012 with the introduction of what is known as Tier 6, advocates say employees in public service who entered under that designation have received less benefits and security than previous generations doing the same work.

Advocates say public servants often enter the field with the expectation that the state will have their back in the form of robust benefits, but they say for those Tier 6 employees, the state isn’t holding up its end of the bargain.

“We are anticipating a retirement where we may have to work, we may have to count on our own children to take care of us,” said Bethany Hamilton, a teacher and Tier 6 member.

She said those in Tiers 5 and 6 are at a significant disadvantage to those under the previous arrangements of Tier 4.

Tier 4 allows people to retire at age 55 with 30 years of service or retire at 62 regardless of service tenure. Those in Tier 6 must work until the age of 63 to retire without penalty.

She emphasized that’s not the only problem with the system.

“We have to pay in for the entirety of our careers, whereas a Tier 4 member has to pay in for 10 years,” she said. “We have to pay more as our salary grows so when we should be preparing for our retirement, we have to shovel money into the system.”

Melinda Person, president of New York State United Teachers, told Spectrum News 1 the conditions for members of Tier 6 shake the very foundation of public service in New York state.

“A career in public service has always meant a dignified retirement,” she said. “It has always meant that you put your work in now, you may make a bit less than in the private sector, but when you retire you’ll be able to live.”

The push is to achieve what Person calls parity with Tier 4.

“We think 30 years should be a career,” she said. “We may not get there this year but we want to see a step forward.”

The hope is that the next step will come with help from the bipartisan group of lawmakers that joined Person at the Capital Tuesday.

State Sen. Lea Webb told the group that staffing shortages across impacted fields make it clear that people value the benefits that traditionally come with public service.

“When you take that away, and now we’re sitting here wondering why we’re having a hard time recruiting and retaining, it’s what happens when you loose that brain trust,” she said.

Asked whether the governor would be open to the change should it show up in one house budgets next week, Budget Director Blake Washington told reporters it would be considered from all angles.

“We’re keeping our eyes open to what our partners in public service are asking while keeping a keen eye on making sure it’s something the state can bear, but also municipal governments,” he said.

Advocates say the hope is these changes would go a long way toward addressing that sortage of public employees and restoring resulting gaps in services. Person said NYSUT would be open to making incremental progress this session, including changes to final average salary calculations which would build on improvements made in last year’s budget.