New York’s “new normal” still includes plenty of the old normal, including a continued rise in the number of “double dipper” public employees who collect both a retirement pension and a salary from the taxpayers.
The government watchdogs at the Empire Center report that double dippers statewide grew by more than 4 percent from July 2018 to July 2019, with at least 43 state and local public employees under age 65 getting new waivers to collect combined public pensions and government paychecks of $200,000 or more at the same time. Seven “retirees” collected combined totals exceeding $300,000.
Nice gig, if you can get it.
The data posted on SeeThroughNY.net show 320 waivers in total approved for New York City, 131 going to district attorneys’ offices.
Among the lucky beneficiaries is Anita Laremont, the general counsel for the Department of City Planning, whose combined total of $319,209 includes approved pay of up to $204,251 and a pension of $114,958.
Workers over 65 can double-dip without a special waiver, as can anyone collecting less than $35,000 in pay. But waivers let younger early “retirees” earn hefty salaries on top of their pensions.
Empire Center data show that more than 20 percent of active waivers (199) have been granted continually since July 1, 2009. This suggests that many are exploiting a provision that was meant to be a temporary one and using it as a regular means of boosting their income.
Several members of the Legislature also rake in pensions on top of their salaries — and don’t even need a waiver.
It’s a kick in the shins for the vast majority of New York taxpayers who don’t have guaranteed pension benefits — certainly not ones that pay out before 65. And everyone relying on a 401(k) has seen their retirement savings take a major beating in the market these last months.
Yet it’s these average taxpayers who foot the bill for public pensions: As the market collapse slams the investments that underwrite those payouts, state and local governments must shift escalating amounts of tax revenues to public retirement funds to make up the difference.
To have hundreds of not-really-retired, under-65 “retirees” exploiting the system to double-dip for years on end is just rubbing salt in the wound.