Double dipping is wrong

for The Brooklyn Paper
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The reason that elected officials should not be allowed to double dip (or collect two government paychecks at the same time) is simple: They make the laws that govern the state’s pension system. It is a conflict of interest in its most basic form and begs the question: What is to prevent them from passing laws and making rules that benefit themselves?

Already, elected officials are the only government employees who are not required to get waivers to receive their pensions from the Assembly or Senate while still serving in the legislature. Several elected officials last year were sent to jail for using government money such as member items (legislative allocations for “community projects” — better known as pork) to benefit themselves, their families and friends. Is there any doubt that some in Albany would pass special rules to increase their pension payments while they were still in office? Since legislators have never been shy about voting themselves pay raises, I think we can safely assume that they would.

Though the legislature does not actually control the pension rules, they would have no trouble exerting undue influence owing to the fact that they handpicked the current comptroller when former Comptroller Alan Hevesi was forced to resign after a corruption conviction.

Assemblymember Bob Reilly (D–Colonie) understands the conflict of interest inherent in elected officials collecting a pension while drawing a government paycheck. He collects a pension, but donates his Assembly salary to charity. Reilly is also the sponsor of a bill that would prohibit former elected officials who have been convicted of crimes from ever drawing a pension. This bill would save taxpayers the insult of having to support the very person who tried to take advantage of them, as is the case with Hevesi, who continues to soak taxpayers to the tune of $166,467 per year, even though he has pleaded guilty to defrauding the government.

New York’s public pension system is broken. It’s not the fault of our public-sector employees, who will be the ones most hurt by the situation, but rather it is the direct fault of New York’s political establishment which has allowed the system to run unchecked and essentially ungoverned for years. Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has just lowered the assumed rate of return on the state’s pension funds, a move which will require higher contributions from state and local governments. The current cost to taxpayers is $2.5 billion a year, which translates to $486 per New York resident or $625 per household.

In the wake of the fall of the stock market, New York’s taxpayers have had to come up with billions to cover the pension shortfall.

As seniors who depend on the pension system worry that it may be running out of money, it seems to be the height of arrogance and disconnect that any elected official would even consider further draining these critical and dwindling funds by collecting two government paychecks at the same time.

To balance the budget this year, the legislature borrowed money from the pension fund at unrealistic payback rates, according to most financial experts. This dangerous measure is nothing but a bandaid and has the potential to do real and lasting damage to the financial health of our state.

The issue here is simple. Elected officials should not be allowed to collect two government paychecks at the same time, while New York State slides into bankruptcy and ruin.

Doug Biviano is running against Assemblywoman Joan Millman, whose district includes Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill.

Updated 5:20 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Carlo Trigiani from Brooklyn Heights says:
What Biviano should be calling for is pension reform.

You cant fault Millman for taking a pension she earned for 27 years of service. Under the current system, teachers make less than they could in the private sector with the trade off being the security of a pension. This applies to all civil servants - cops, train conductors, state and city workers, etc. I'm sure Millman factored the pension variable into her decision to become a teacher decades ago.

The real double dips come from civil servants who collect pensions at 42 years of age and then work off the books for three decades. That's what drains the system. Polititians like Silver who draw a government paycheck while being handsomely employed by a law firm - a second form of the double dip.

If the challenger wants to change Albany, he should propose meaningful and substantive reform. Pay civil servants a fair wage, incentivize them to save for retirement from their own wages with a market rate match (think private sector 401K).

Biviano is right about a conflict of interest. And I know - the unions will never agree; blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But if he wants to throw out the bums, he needs to sling more than mud.

Propose some reforms Biv. You might not get elected but at least you'll get some respect and hopefully move the discourse in a positive direction. In and of itself, that would be a huge contribution to your community.

Carlo Trigiani,
Brooklyn Heights
Sept. 2, 2010, 8:21 am
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
so much misinformation and so little time. First of all the only people who can collect pensions at age 42 are cops/sanitation/fire who have completed 20 years of service. The exception is the disability pensions pension system which is a mess for the uniformed services too. The problem has to do with deemed disabilities and other issues-including the definitions. But the legislature has in fact redone the non-uniformed pensions system so that the current starting employees are in tier 5 with a retirement age of 62 up from 55 for tier 1 when I worked for the state.

So that the legislature has been working on this. The difference between tier 1 and 5 is great. Tier 1 no contributions towards pensions and age 55 retirement. tier 5 makes contributions and age 62(I believe) one is forced to retire.

I too have problems with borrowing money from the pension system but this has been the Republican way of balancing the budget without new taxes. so Doug you want more taxes?
Sept. 2, 2010, 11:38 am
sid from Boerum says:
the state Constitution prevents retroactive changes.
Sept. 2, 2010, 11:41 am
agnes from windsor terrace says:
@Sid you can't blame borrowing from the pension fund on the Republicans. Democrat Tom DiNapoli cooked up the idea and Democrat Shelly Silver used it to put lipstick on that pig of a budget he passed.

Blame the Republicans for war and pollution, whatever, but financial chicanery has a distinctly Democratic slant in Shelly Silver's legislature.

We'll never get rid of Silver but his Tommy boy has got to go.
Sept. 3, 2010, 6:31 am
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
The policy of borrowing was started under Pataki. They robbed(opps I mean borrowed) money from the Workers comp fund and other state controlled entities. This was at a time when the Republicans controlled the state senate. This wrong headed policy has been continued by every administration since then.

Its the Republicans who have starved the MTA from needed funds over the years reducing the states share of subsidies.

You can blame a lot on the Dems and Shelly Silver in-particular but the Father of this all and the midwife too was a Republican administration.
Sept. 3, 2010, 10:43 am

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