More than 500 people have sought and received permission to collect public pensions while being paid by state or local governments since 2015, according to data added today to SeeThroughNY.

The data was added on the same day that the state Senate voted to increase the amount government retirees under age 65 can be paid without seeking such waivers, from $30,000 to $35,000. The bill remains in committee in the state Assembly. Details about more than 8,000 requests for waivers can be viewed on SeeThroughNY.

“These waivers are supposed to be used as temporary solutions for the rare instances when a retiree is the only person available and qualified to do a job,” said Tim Hoefer, executive director of the Empire Center. “Taxpayers are ultimately responsible for backing public pension benefits and paying public worker salaries. They have a good reason to question why they’re paying someone twice.”

Instead of making the existing, flawed system more lucrative for double-dippers, Hoefer noted, the Legislature should consider putting new public employees in a defined-contribution retirement plan such as the SUNY optional plan that has now been expanded to cover non-union appointees and elected officials since 2012. Such a plan would be less expensive and risky for taxpayers, allow faster vesting, give workers more flexibility and have more predictable costs than the current defined-benefit system in which local governments and school districts are forced to participate.

A 2012 poll found more than one-fourth of New York public school teachers would have chosen a defined-contribution plan if one had been offered to them, and that a solid majority thought all teachers should at least be offered that option.

The Empire Center, based in Albany, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan think tank dedicated to promoting policies to make New York a better place to live, work and do business.

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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.

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