September 2, 2010 / Media / Podcast / Politics / Perspective

Editorial: A double take on ‘double dipping’

The Brooklyn Paper
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There is something untoward about a state legislator who collects a pension while still doing the people’s business in Albany. But in the case of two Assemblywomen who are facing stiff primary challenges, the transgression ranges from mildly offensive to genuinely repugnant.

Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D–Carroll Gardens) worked as a city school teacher for 27 years before being elected to the legislature in 1997. Before that election, she put in for her pension. After taking office, she declined to defer her retirement payments, despite the fact that she would now be earning two paychecks from the public.

Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs (D–Flatbush) has been in the legislature since most of us were in diapers. Two years ago, she started collecting her pension from her long service as an assemblywoman — even as she continued to serve in the same job. So get this, folks: She’s working hard as your assemblywoman — but she’s retired, too.

And now she’s making $175,500 — all from you.

Both candidates’ opponents in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary have tried to make hay out of this lush field of cut grass before them: two lawmakers who have put themselves into one of the highest tax brackets by taking their retirement pay before they’re retired.

In Millman’s case, challenger Doug Biviano argues that by taking her pension and becoming a rich lady, the lawmaker is out of touch with the struggles of her constituents. Almost by definition, he is right; but Biviano’s train of outrage goes off the rails when he suggests that Millman’s decision not to defer her pension while she’s in office is indicative of a larger corruption or insensitivity to other workers’ pensions. In fact, as a pensioner herself, Millman could argue that there’s no one better to look after her constituents’ retirement savings.

Jacobs’s case presents the far more offensive example of an out-of-touch legislator. Yes, it’s legal for her to collect the pension for the job she still holds. But legality is a sheet of paper you file at the pension office; morality is what you tell yourself when you turn out the light. In her own inner pillow talk, Jacobs needs to remind herself that she works for the people of the State of New York, and it’s simply unacceptable to be paid twice for the same public job.

Need more evidence that Jacobs’s double dipping is wrong? The state legislature — the same esteemed body that can’t pass a budget on time, can’t manage our local transit system, and can’t pass an ethics bill without SUV-sized loopholes — actually changed the law in 1995 so that future lawmakers (emphasis on future) can’t do exactly what Jacobs now does.

For once, Albany got it right. Jacobs still has it wrong.

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

Eva from Park Slope says:
I'm a retired NYC teacher with a second career as a state employee and I have to suspend my pension because I earn more than $30,000, whereas lawmakers are exempt from this rule.

According to the NY RSSL Law, there are SPECIAL LOOPHOLES FOR LAWMAKERS vis-a-vis Joan Millman's case. Unelected state employees are limited to an earnings of $30,000 in retirement before they have to suspend their pension. NOT SO FOR LAWMAKERS, they are exempt and can earn unlimited state paid income and don't have to defer. At 65 it's unlimited for everyone again.

Therefore, I would beg to differ about the moral question you pose for AW Jacobs but not AW Millman. If it's not kosher for other state employees, it's simply repugnant if state lawmakers exempt themselves.

AW Millman was doing this long before she was 65 so I find it repugnant as well and defined by state law as Double-Dipping for everyone but lawmakers 'cause they make the law. It's SPECIAL RULES for LAWMAKERS and business as usual while everyone else struggles.

You can find this in both the NYS and NYC retirement websites and handbooks in "Earnings After Retirement."
Sept. 2, 2010, 8:55 am
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
I think the limitations are unfair. You have earned your pension, why should the fact that you decide to continue working someplace else effect your pension? It doesn't in private industry.
Most legislatures without pensions work other jobs. I would rather have a full time legislature than a part time one who has other loyalties. reasonable people can disagree but this is just a smokescreen for someone the paper dislikes anyway.
Sept. 2, 2010, 9:31 am
simon from canarsie says:
I worked in the printing industry for many years. When it came time to retire & collect my pension I could collect my pension but was not allowed to work in that industry again & collect my pension at the same time.
I wasn't banned though from working in another industry & making a living.
The politicians should be kept to the same criteria. You retire great... but you can't work & collect a pension in the same capacity as before.
Unfortunately the pols probably aren't qualified to work in any other area than politics. Maybe as a lobbyist.
Sept. 2, 2010, 9:54 am
Billy from Greenpoint says:
Sid writes:

> "I think the limitations are unfair. You have earned your pension, why should the fact that you decide to continue working someplace else effect your pension?"

I'm with Sid, I have a hard time getting worked up about a teacher collecting a pension she earned through nearly thirty years of service.

In fact, if that applies to Millman (whom I would like to see defeated by Doug, btw, we need stronger advocates in the Assembly, especially for Transit), then it applies to Jacobs, too.

From the article:

> "Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs (D–Flatbush) has been in the legislature since most of us were in diapers. Two years ago, she started collecting her pension from her long service as an assemblywoman — even as she continued to serve in the same job."

Again -- public servant for years, and now becoming vested in her pension -- which she earned. I don't see the problem.

I think commenter Eva is getting at something important though - it seems unfair that she is not allowed to collect the pension she earned. That's not "double-dipping". Keeping a pension from somebody who's earned it could more appropriately be considered "stealing" or perhaps "back-stabbing."

If there's room for reform here, it's in reforming Eva's situation.

And, I have to say, I'm a little disappointed that this is the big deal issue over these candidates. We really, really badly need strong, vocal, spine-endowed representatives for Brooklyn in the state legislature, and from my perspective, strong advocates for transit and creating jobs.

There's a ton of waste and graft in this state -- people earning their pay shouldn't even be a problem we are discussing.
Sept. 2, 2010, 10:29 am
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
So lets see if you collect dividends and interest that is ok. So Bloomberg gets money from his company that's ok because its not a pension. But a pension for past work isn't. So only the wealthy should be allowed to run for office.
Double standard? you betcha. The rich get richer and the rest of us get screwed. You think that Rupert Murdock gives money to those collecting a pension?

If it was a 401K she could take out money based on an actuarial scheduled without penalty at any age...

Stupid reason not to vote for someone and be careful what you ask for. Doug/Kevin Powell has no money and the chances he will take a bribe is higher than someone who doesn't need it. Not accusing them but pointing it out....
Sept. 2, 2010, 11 am
Steven Rosenberg from Park Slope says:
It's two, two, two problems in one: blackmail-induced pension levels; and blackmail-induced early retirement ages.

Most unions suck. And they suck the rest of us dry.
Sept. 2, 2010, 1:57 pm
Barry from Park Slope says:
I would like to point out that the budget negotiations took so long because of the deadlock in the senate, not the assembly which both members (Millman and Jacobs) are a part of. As far as the MTA / Ethics issue, I don't know anything about them offhand, but I don't believe the MTA is ran by the state legislature (gets some funding maybe, but its an independent entity which has the ability to independently raise fares of the SL), and ethics reform, well, it is what it is.

Please whoever writes these articles fact check them before you put them on the internet. I know that you're looking for people to blame, but put credit where credit is due and blame where blame is due.
Sept. 2, 2010, 2:02 pm
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
the retirement age has increased over the last 20 years in the state by seven years(more than in Social security). and the Unions by law are not allowed to negotiate over pensions in either the city or in the State
Boy are you wrong.
Sept. 2, 2010, 2:02 pm
Steven Rosenberg from Park Slope says:
Sid from Boerum Hill, so because "the retirement age" here is slightly less unreasonable and depraved than Social Security, that's ok? Very bankrupt isn't any better than extremely-extremely bankrupt.
Sept. 2, 2010, 8:28 pm
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
Hey Steve you just make this up? It went up significantly more than the increase in Social security- which allows early retirement at age 62. The reason that it is bankrupt is that it was underfunded in the beginning when there was plenty of money around. I do think things should be cut. I also don't oppose a review of it. But what would you do? take it away completely?
and since you hate Unions so much you don't belong to any group that lobby's on your behalf.
Yes there have been Union excesses and a hell of a lot of management ones.
Sept. 2, 2010, 9:27 pm
G.F. from Bay Ridge says:
State Senator Martin J. Golden is the most notorious "Double Dipper" of them all.

He has a very problematic "disability" pension from the NYPD, and he collects his full pay and his fill of benefits for the whole family from New York State.
Sept. 3, 2010, 7 am
Steven Rosenberg from Park Slope says:
Sid from Boerum Hill, we're talking about public sector here (a politician). The solution is to prevent public sector benefits from being more generous than private sector ones. These days, a gov. job is not only more secure, but it pays better. THAT MUST STOP. Check out California; out bankruptcy starts as soon as that fink Cuomo gets his coronation--yipee.
Sept. 3, 2010, 9:29 am
FLM from Bensonhurst says:
Peter Abbate, Diane Sorvino and Marty Golden recently tried to undo certain pension reforms enacted in the past year for some state emplyees. Governor Paterson veoted that special legislation.

Some politicians are "owned" by the public employee unions.
Sept. 10, 2010, 10:01 pm

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