It’s going to be a very happy new year for nine veteran state lawmakers who will “retire” Jan. 1 to collect their pensions — but remain in office on full salary.

A wacky loophole in state pension law allows legislators who are at least age 65 and elected before 1995 to retire for pension purposes.

In essence, the double dippers — many of whom make $100,000 or more between their base legislative salary of $79,500 and leadership stipends — will be giving themselves pay hikes of 30 percent to 100 percent, depending on years of service.

The legislators re-elected last month who filed for retirement with the state comptroller’s office are a bipartisan bunch.

They include five Republican senators — John DeFrancisco of Syracuse; John Bonacic of Orange County; Kemp Hannon of Nassau County; Kenneth LaValle of Suffolk County; and Tim Libous of Binghamton.

In the Assembly, three Democrats and one Republican filed for the added benefit — Jeff Aubry (D-Queens); Gary Pretlow (D-Mount Vernon); William Magee (D-Madison County); and David McDonough (R-Nassau).

Pension reformers blasted the practice as a sweetheart deal.

“It’s a loophole that shouldn’t exist. But as long as this is the law, people are going to exploit it,” said Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Suffolk).

Fitpatrick has introduced legislation that would require elected officials and government workers to enter a 401(k)-style pension system.

E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center agreed. “If legislators were in a 401(k)-type system, like the vast majority of their constituents, this simply wouldn’t be an issue. The existing system shouldn’t simply be mended, it should be ended.”

The lawmakers defended their double dipping.

“I had a heart attack 10 years ago,” said Aubry, 67, first elected in 1992. “Everyone has to look at their own situation. I don’t know if this makes a huge difference to people in my district.”

Aubry, who makes about $100,000, expects a monthly pension of about $2,400 or close to $30,000 extra a year.

Bonacic, 72, told The Post his wife would collect lower benefits if he dies in office without being retired.

“If I were to die while in active service in the state Legislature, the law does not allow my wife to collect my pension. I put this decision off for as long as I can, but I thought it was appropriate at this time to protect my wife,” he said.

Pretlow, 65, said he was thinking of his own mortality.

“I’ve been to six funerals in the past two weeks, 28 to 55 years old. No one was older than me. Life is short,” he said.

© 2014 New York Post

You may also like

Bill Requires Municipalities To Maintain Their Websites

Skoufis’ legislation references a 2014 Empire Center highlighted the poor quality of municipal websites many of which lacked basic information. The report found that less than 20% of local governments received a passing grade on their website’s availability of information and usability including two municipalities that did not have a website. Some of those websites have improved over the past five years, including Jamestown’s, which received an “F” rating in 2014. The updated city website includes all of the information Skoufis’ legislation would mandate. Read More

EDITORIAL: FOILed by a judge: Manhattan jurist Melissa Crane must speed it up on making police pensions public

Long ago the Empire Center for Public Policy asked the NYPD Pension Fund for the names of retirees and how much each is paid, to add the data to its indispensable database on how New York taxpayer dollars are spent. Read More

Albany’s ‘big ugly’ provides political cover, but has some benefits

“This has been one of the worst developments in the political process here in New York in modern history,” said E.J. McMahon of the fiscally conservative Empire Center for Public Policy think tank and a former aide to Gov. George Pataki. “It really is corrosive of accountability and democracy and, implicitly, the constitution prohibits it.” Read More

Panel at LIA meeting knocks state single-payer health care bill

"Ninety-three hospitals would lose more than 10 percent of revenue," said Bill Hammond, director of health policy at the Empire Center for Public Policy, a fiscally conservative  Albany think tank. Read More

‘Pork’ Bill Hangs Over Other Issues in Albany

E.J. McMahon, research director for the Empire Center for Public Policy, a fiscally conservative think tank, questioned the need for these projects. His organization found recent SAM allocations paid for projects he deemed frivolous such as a skate park and a local highway garage. “It’s this huge mutual back-scratching,” he said. Read More

Capitol pressroom

Former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky and EJ McMahon, Founder and Research Director of the Empire Center, shared their insights into the effects of the legislation and the political implications. Read More

UNFINISHED BUSINESS AS ALBANY SESSION CLOCK TICKS DOWN

Of the $508 million in pork awarded last year, most of it came from the State and Municipal Facilities program, which is widely derided as legislative slush fund, according to an analysis by the fiscally  conservative Empire Center for Public Policy. Read More

Report says move start of state fiscal year, add budget office

Moving the start of the state fiscal year to July 1 and establishing a Legislative Budget Office are among the recommendations of the Empire Center to improve accountability in the budget process. Read More

Subscribe

Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100
Fax: 518-434-3130
E-Mail: info@empirecenter.org

About

The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.