Thursday, August 20, 2009

It's Supposed to be Public Service, Right?

August 18, 2009
Some N.Y. Lawmakers Take Pensions on Top of Pay
ALBANY — When Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg retired last year, there were no sendoffs, no cakes and no serenades.

In fact, no one even knew he had left the Capitol, because he never did. Mr. Weisenberg, 75, a Long Island Democrat, “retired” last year but continued to work as a lawmaker and remained on the payroll. As a result, he earns $101,500 in salary and collects a pension of about $72,000, according to the comptroller’s office.

Similarly, Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs, a 72-year-old Brooklyn Democrat, retired last year after 31 years, but continued to serve her district. She earns $104,500 and draws an annual pension of more than $71,000. And Assemblyman John J. McEneny, a 65-year-old Albany-area Democrat who retired last year but kept his seat in the Assembly chamber, now earns $94,500 and a pension of about $73,000.

All of them are beneficiaries of “double dipping,” a practice in which public servants simultaneously collect government salaries and pensions, sometimes for the same job.

Most people who have a traditional pension put in years or decades of work at a job, then retire, leave the job and begin collecting monthly pension payments. Some companies do allow double dipping, though the practice has most likely declined during the recession and federal rules impose more restrictions on corporate pension funds.

In Albany, veteran lawmakers can “retire” at 65 from their jobs and start collecting pensions, but without actually leaving their jobs, giving up their salaries or even telling their constituents. Four legislators took advantage of the rule last year.

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