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
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