Morning Read: Double-dipping North Country lawmakers

Lohr McKinstry at the Plattsburgh Press-Republican has a provocative piece up about two fiscally conservative North Country Republicans who are double-dipping — drawing state pension pay while also earning paychecks from the state of New York.

Many of their constituents would be surprised to learn that Assemblywomen Teresa Sayward of Willsboro and Janet Duprey of Peru are retiring from office Dec. 31.

But on Jan. 1, they will be going back on the payroll.

At a time when thousands of state workers are being asked to absorb major sacrifices — from layoffs to pay freezes — the two Assemblywoman argue that they are due the payments, which McKinstry blames on “a loophole” in state law.

Sayward, who will receive an additional $30,000 a year, according to the newspaper, said this:

“I’ve worked hard. I’ll have to continue to work, just like anybody among my constituents. Most people, when they retire, still have to work.”

Duprey told the newspaper, “I’ve worked very hard for those 35 years. I worked too hard not to do this.”

So what do you think?  Are these long-serving public officials getting their fair due?

Or is this another case of people talking the fiscally conservative talk, while cheerfully cashing the taxpayers’ checks?

(We’ll hear from Sayward and Duprey tomorrow morning.)

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32 Comments on “Morning Read: Double-dipping North Country lawmakers”

  1. Myown says:

    State Legislators should be required to follow the same restrictions they imposed on State Workers under Public Officers Law 73, including the 2-year prohibition of working in the same field.

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  2. dan3583 says:

    Amazing how often legislators exempt themselves from laws and regs they impose on the rest of us, isn’t it?

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  3. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Pensions are earned through service. But it doesn’t look good, especially in tough times. It would be nice if they would defer their pensions but then for how long? Until the end of all public service? Maybe that would encourage more turn-over in public office. Would it be good or not? I don’t know.

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  4. MH says:

    And these women call themselves fiscally conservative! Vote them out, this behavior is demeaning.

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  5. phahn50 says:

    “Ive worked hard” and I’ve earned it is exactly what every other state worker says. I dont see her standing up for the much lower paid CSEA state workers in her district. Not a big surprise but still…. they work hard and deserve their benefits too.

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  6. Pete Klein says:

    No tossing of stones from me.
    I once heard Warren Buffett say he draws Social Security. He continues to work and make a lot of money, much of which he gives away.
    When you pay your dues (payments into retirement funds and Social Security) you should be able to draw on what you paid into.
    That’s all Janet and Teresa are doing.

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  7. phahn50 says:

    They most likely do deserve what they are going to collect (as do we all). But… They arent “drawing what they paid into” in the strict sense. They, like all of us, pay into a fund to support current retirees and expect to be able to retire and be supported by future retirees. The state retirement system is not fully funded by current employees. Present Social security recipients are totally funded by presently working contributors who expect to be able to retire someday at someone else’s expense.

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  8. When you retire from state service you can’t work in a public service job covered by the NYS Retirement System without having your pension reduced except… in cases where the employer/agency makes an exception. In essence they are being given a pass on the rules in order to collect their pension and keep their job at the same time. As always whether it is right or wrong depends on your point of view. I will observe that such exceptions are generally made for those higher on the pay scale and rarely for those lower on the pay scale.

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  9. oa says:

    What will be interesting is to see how fiscally conservative but pension-packing pols react when the GOP and their moderate minions in the other party come after all state pensions (NY State is among the first in line), as they are setting up to do, here:
    http://www.slate.com/id/2278795/pagenum/all/#p2

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  10. Mark says:

    While it seems like an obvious conflict and will draw lots of attention, the fact is that these state employees are doing exactly what any other state employee would do. They are collecting the benefits that are legally due.

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  11. Myown says:

    Sayward and Duprey are not State employees. There is a BIG difference between the perks and privileges of State legislators and State employees. And very conveniently State legislators do not have to follow the same restrictions they placed on State Employees after retirement.

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  12. Bret4207 says:

    It doesn’t really matter what those two do in the long run. What does matter, to me at least, is that it’s a rare thing for a retired State employee to be able to draw another State salary. Now it’s news. It “looks bad” , it’s called double dipping. Funny thing is that it’s often by the same folks who think the state should be buying and paying taxes on more land. That makes no sense to me. It makes no sense either when people talk about the the costs of public retirement systems yet won’t consider cutting entitlement programs, arts and cultural programs, pork, pork, pork. Kinda gotta wonder what the priorities are.

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  13. Brad Turner says:

    Many people work after they retire like Assemblywoman Sayward pointed out. I personally know many correction officers, police officers, retired military, and state employees that do this. But it is not public knowledge. We hold our elected officials to different standards, and why? Many people believe that our public officials owe them something because they elected them to office. I don’t agree with this. People are speaking out against this because they feel like there is a double standard, well I agree, but for a much different reason.

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  14. Myown says:

    No. NYS legislators hold themselves to a lower standard than what they impose on employees of NYS agencies. For instance, legislators can retire and immediately work as a lobbyist for a client and lobby the legislature for favorable legislation. State agency employees must wait two years before they can interact with the agency they left.

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  15. mervel says:

    Interesting article OA.

    The problem for the Unions is that they have done a good job. The problem for them is transparency. What would the general public think, those who are not NYS government employees, those who do not have any pensions let alone great ones, those who are making minimum wage, those who are struggling making under 20k and trying to raise families, what are they going to say when they really see what all of these government employees are making? Will there be a groundswell of public support?

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  16. Dave says:

    “Many people work after they retire like Assemblywoman Sayward pointed out. I personally know many correction officers, police officers, retired military, and state employees that do this.”

    Lots of retirees work. Usually other jobs, or part timers, etc.

    My dad is retired and works at a Golf Course now. This isn’t news.

    What would be news is if he fake retired from his company, and then was immediately rehired to the exact same position, just so he could begin receiving retirement payments on top of his regular paychecks.

    There is a reason they call this a “loophole” and there is a reason why they tightened up the rules to stop it from happening… because it is a scam.

    It doesn’t matter how many others have done it before, it is still wrong. And yes, our elected officials should be held to a higher standard, one that doesn’t involve exploiting loopholes in state law.

    That this is happening with our tax dollars during a fiscal crisis is just unbelievable (almost as unbelievable as fiscal conservatives trying to defend it)

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  17. mervel says:

    It would be much easier for most people to digest if these pensions and salaries of public “servants” were not so much higher than comparable salaries and pensions in the private sector. Particularly up here in the North Country. For example this seyward is going to get an additional 30,000, well his additional money is above the average total salary of what most people make. I think they forget how far out there they are and how ridiculous this looks to the average taxpayer in the private sector.

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  18. oa says:

    Mervel said: “Will there be a groundswell of public support?”
    I think you know the answer. And it’s obviously no. It’s classic resentment politics. “Who’s underpaid? I am. Who’s overpaid? The other guy!”
    And it works at a crabs-in-the-barrel level–the private sector workers who’ve seen no rise in real wages in 30 years see no way of pulling their earnings up, but here’s an opportunity to pull down anybody who’s getting more than them. It’s understandable.
    The GOP is playing off this for votes, and politically it’s brilliant (except for the unfortunate Sayward and Duprey). Nobody’s talking about why so few companies pay health insurance benefits, let alone offer pension plans. Meanwhile, many of those companies’ owners, who are the conservatives’ richest benefactors and greatest beneficiaries, don’t have to pay any more taxes in this time of economic struggle, even as their profits are rising to record levels.
    Ironic that this drumbeat against state pensions is led by Gingrich, who has a pretty good Congressional pension, and (I’m guessing) a state pension from his years as a public university professor.

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  19. mervel says:

    Make them all pay; private fat cats and government fat cats, they are all the same. We need to have resentment against everyone!

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  20. Bret4207 says:

    “The GOP is playing off this for votes, and politically it’s brilliant (except for the unfortunate Sayward and Duprey).”

    Huh? As I read it both Sayward and Duprey are Republicans. So the GOP is going to publicly sacrifice two of their own to…….what? Close a loophole that allows double dipping? If you mean class warfare, that’s an old leftist ploy that’s still used by people everywhere, including here. Punish the rich, which means the guy making a penny more than you.

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  21. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    This issue is another example of why we need pension reform for tier 1, 2, 3 and 4 members. The new Tier 5 program is a good first step, but more needs to be done. Reinstate the 3% contribution for one and close loopholes such as the one described above. If you’re continuing to work in state gov’t, at whatever level, you don’t collect a pension. Meaning you’re faced with a choice, put off collecting the pension if you continue to draw a full time salary, or retire. Simple as that.

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  22. Pete Klein says:

    Not a lawyer on these subjects and not making a judgement call but I do believe there is a difference between employed by government and being an elected official.

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  23. oa says:

    Bret,
    Read the link above. The GOP is pushing the no-pensions stuff, and it’s successful political demogoguery that’s starting to get a lot of traction.
    The GOP isn’t going after Sayward and Duprey personally. (What does the national party care about them, anyway? They’re in the minority of a blue Assembly in a blue state.)
    Those two pols just didn’t see the anti-pension train coming (engineered by Gingrich and NJ Gov. Christie) and got run over by it.

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  24. oa says:

    Mervel said: “We need to have resentment against everyone!”
    I’m with you, Mervel. To the barricades!

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  25. Bret4207 says:

    I have no issue with pension reform. I realize many people are under the impression most retired State Employees are hauling in mega bucks, but I’m pretty darn sure that the opposite is true. And I will again remind you folks that most of those Tier 1, 2 and 3 people probably retired with a final average salary under $60K, the run of the mill person that is, not the high level guys which are few and far between. So now they get what? $30-35K a year after working for 20-35 years? I’m reminded of my Senior Man’s Senior man (my training officers training officer). Last I saw of him he was in his mid 60′s dragging a fuel hose through hip deep snow in Tupper Lake to make ends meet. He retired after 20+ years probably pulling down a staggering $35K a year. So he retires on $20K maybe and you guys are complaining about it? Come on! You think the retired snowplow driver down the road that retired at 62 or 65 making $20K is pulling you under? Those are the guys that are Tier 1, 2 or 3. They retired back in 80′s or before, maybe the early 90′s if they stuck around till the last minute. So while I understand the problem, I don’t see how cutting the legs out from under a 60+ year old retiree can sound like a good thing to any reasonable person.

    Labor contracts are legally binding contracts. While I’m not a big union man, I do believe in trying to fulfill your promises. I certainly don’t relish the thought of higher taxes since I already pay over $6K a year on my swamp, but that is probably what will happen. What I would like to see is some reduced spending. I find it troublesome that anyone, Democrat or GOP, would talk of violating contracts while not reducing the pork. There are smart, reasonable ways to handle things and then there are stupid short sighted ways to do it. Neither party seems to have a handle on the smart and reasonable end of things.

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  26. Myown says:

    Bret, I couldn’t agree with you more that the average NYS retiree is not getting wealthy on their pension. The average NYS pension is in the $20-30,000 range. And I agree it was part of the contract of working for the State that the pension was guaranteed.

    However, with regards to your comment about class warfare I would say it is conservative republicans that are promoting it with policies that punish the poor and middle class. It is conservative republicans that want to balance budgets by spending cuts that hurt the poor and middle class. It is conservative republicans that want to eliminate or reduce pensions that the middle class worked their whole life for. It is conservative republicans that support policies that increase the concentration of wealth at the top while the middle class continues to shrink.

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  27. Bret4207 says:

    I would agree to an extent that some on the right are not acting in the best interests of the country, but so are many on the left. Your post is another example of the class warfare rhetoric that’s been around since FDR perfected it. Simply saying “the Republicans are punishing the poor and middle class” for example is a completely empty statement. Who has held the purse strings for the past 6-8 years in Washington and Albany? Have spending or taxes dropped under Democrat leadership over the past 20-30 years? Same with talk of balancing budgets- when things were good did either side plan for a rainy day? Did either side spend any real time on debt reduction and slowing gov’t growth? And is it Republicans alone talking of getting into the pensions? Andrew Cuomo has a big “D” next to his name last time I looked. He’s not alone across the country either.

    Some might argue that the left has done more to damage the poor and middle class through taxes and regulation, gov’t growth, support of unrealistic labor agreements, driving business out of the country, etc. Others will argue it’s only the other guys and that the Dems are lily white and pure as the driven snow. That’s where class warfare comes in- which side is saying the other is trying to save the rich and make the poor live in squalor and eat dog food? I don’t have a lot of use for Republicans, but I have even less for Democrats. Either party would sell us all down the river for enough votes or contributions.

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  28. Mervel says:

    The problem is that the pensions are just to generous. But the other issue is we should not go back on current promises if we can at all help it I hope people don’t want to do that? But yeah if you retire at 55 or 60 and earn 30,000 per year for 30-35 years until you die that is a pension cost of over a million dollar per person and this is for the lower end guys. The present value of that stream is less, but still substantial.

    In the private sector if the company or agency you work for goes belly up you get what is left over or some reduced amount or nothing. If your company offers a 401k and not a pension and the value of the 401k retirement fund drops by half that is just the way it goes. If they get laid off that is just the way it goes.

    So in the article that OA posted conservatives are talking about states and municipalities possibly declaring bankruptcy instead of being bailed out by the federal government. That would mean that the courts would determine what debtor got what was left, it would mean that those currently getting state pensions would indeed have to take cuts. Welcome to the real world.

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  29. Bret4207 says:

    Okay, and how many retire and die within a couple years? That was extremely common with guys off my job for a long time, with Forest Rangers, ECO’s, CO’s, etc.

    This to me kind of looks like people getting mad that they made poor career choices among other things.

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  30. Mervel says:

    Right I agree. I think some of it really is resentment kind of stuff. Like I said we owe people for their service and our promises to them. What happens is as the private sector becomes a place of no real security for most people they will become resentful of the long term security offered to state workers being paid with their taxes. Its not good or healthy in the long term.

    I do think though that in the current economic realities all of these benefits in the future will have to decrease there is no other choice.

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  31. Bret4207 says:

    Mervel, I have no doubt things will and are changing. Tier 5 is new, the next contracts will be different too. That’s one thing. For the State to make a contract, have it’s employees fulfill those contracts and then to renege on those contracts is pretty much the same thing Enron and all those other companies did. So screw over the retired employees but keep buying State land, funding arts and pork projects. Oh, and raise the taxes on all the residents of the State too.

    It wouldn’t be so bad for me, I can make it. But what about the older people that can’t go find work or have health issues? Are we going to tell some 75 year old retiree he’s on his own? If we’re going to do that we might better get those death panels going now…

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  32. Mervel says:

    I agree it is exactly like what Enron did.

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