A new batch of sitting state lawmakers have filed paperwork that will allow them to collect both their salary and retirement payments starting in 2015 despite remaining in office.
A total of 12 state lawmakers have filed paperwork signaling their retirement effective Jan. 1, according to the state Comptroller’s Office. But nine of those legislators will actually start a new, two-year term next year and would then be eligible to collect both a salary and a pension, which is known in Albany parlance as “double dipping.”
Among those who have filed the paperwork with the Comptroller’s Office are Sens. Tom Libous, R-Binghamton; John Bonacic, R-Mt. Hope, Orange County; John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse; Kemp Hannon, R-Nassau County; and Kenneth LaValle, R-Suffolk County. In the Assembly, Assemblymen Gary Pretlow, D-Mt. Vernon; William Magee, D-Nelson, Madison County; Jeffrion Aubry, D-Queens; and David McDonough, R-Nassau County, filed their retirement papers.
Three lawmakers who are not returning to Albany filed their retirement papers: Sens. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, Niagara County; and Malcolm Smith, D-Queens; as well as Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, D-Suffolk County.
State law allows lawmakers age 65 and older who were in office before 1995 to collect a salary and pension by technically retiring before starting a new term.
Libous’ situation is unique. The Senate’s deputy Republican leader, Libous is 61 and battling cancer. In an interview, Libous said he will collect a couple pension payments at the beginning of 2015 before freezing them, a move that will allow his wife to collect his benefits should he pass away before the end of his term.
State law caps pension payments at $30,000 annually for those under 65 who return to a state job. Libous’ retirement payments next year will be well under the cap before he freezes them, he said.
“I won’t be collecting both my pension and my salary,” said Libous, who will return to the Capitol in January while facing a looming federal trial. “I will collect a couple of payments and then freeze it, so then once I freeze it, if something happens to me, my wife is entitled to receive any pop-up payments. I’m basically protecting what I’ve earned the last 30 years.”
Each state legislator earns a base salary of $79,500 a year, though most receive stipends for holding leadership positions. Pension payments are calculated based on a formula based on how many years an employee or lawmaker has received a state salary and when they started.
All of the lawmakers can withdraw their retirement papers before Jan. 1, according to the Comptroller’s Office. Otherwise, the sitting legislators would be eligible to begin collecting both their salary and retirement benefits beginning in the new year.
(Note: Post will be updated)
(File photo by Tim Roske/AP)