Not to be outdone by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pension reforms yesterday, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli went on the record today with his legislation to reform the burgeoning state pension system, which DiNapoli oversees.
DiNapoli said his aim is to find abuses of the pension system by allowing the state Department of Taxation and Finance to identify state retirees who then go to work for local governments and exceed the $30,000 limit on salary income.
“This legislation sends a message to anyone who tries to game the retirement system: if you don’t play by the rules, we will find you and make you pay,” said DiNapoli. “Government agencies should be enabled to work together to reduce waste, fraud and abuse. This legislation will do just that. We have half the puzzle and Tax and Finance has the other half. Together, we’ll solve this problem and stop this kind of abuse.”
Retirees in the state pension system under age 65 can earn up to $30,000 a year without any pension penalty. The retirement system can compare salary information for current state employees to determine if any retirees are earning more than $30,000 and can then strip them of excess pension payments.
The Comptroller’s Office can do the same for double dippers with state pensions who go to work at school districts, thanks to a 2008 law.
But their ability is limited, DiNapoli said, when it comes to local government employees who are retirees. DiNapoli’s bill would amend state tax law to grant the Comptroller’s Office access to the tax department’s wage reporting system to match the retirement system’s records with information reported by local governments.
The match, DiNapoli said, would allow the Comptroller’s Office to more easily identify retirees improperly collecting a state pension and a local government salary.
DiNapoli pointed to a case in Oneida County in February where a former Rome police officer Thomas C. Hubal had been convicted of third-degree larceny for earning more than his pension legal limit over a nine-year period. Hubal must repay more than $88,000 and serve six-months incarceration for defrauding the system.
DiNapoli said if his legislation was in place, Hubal wouldn’t have gotten away with it.