Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, is maxing out of the state’s pension system and is cashing out next year to protect his wife.
The long-term public figure was first elected to office in 1970 for the Town of Niskayuna and then the state Senate in 1976. With his military time and an accounting quirk, he has about 46 years of public service heading into 2013, but will get credit for about 39 years of service. Because it is impossible to add to his pension benefits after this year, he will begin collecting a salary and pension starting next year.
“I’ve decided to take my pension because I have to do it to protect my wife because should something happen to me in office, my wife would be precluded from collecting my pension,” said Farley, who will soon turn 80.
Starting in 2013 he will collect a pension of about $52,000 and a salary of about $104,500, which includes a leadership stipend. In the next legislative session, he will be the longest-tenured member currently serving in the state Senate.
Farley noted that if he were to die in office, his wife wouldn’t be able to collect his pension and would be eligible only for a death benefit. He said other longtime public servants are forced to do the same thing as him, so as to avoid losing any of the benefits they have earned. “A lot of the older guys,” he added.
He said this quirk in the pension rules is a mistake and needs to be reformed. “A lot of people have talked about reforming this,” he said.
Farley said he will not be donating his salary or pension while he collects both. “I feel I have earned it,” he said of his pension and salary. One of his local colleagues, soon-to-retire Assemblyman Bob Reilly, D-Colonie, chose to donate his salary.
Another quirk in the pension system, which bases pensions on the final years of service, will actually end up costing Farley some money. Because his pension was calculated during a period of time that included Democratic control of the state Senate, it is covering a period where he had a lower salary. Prior to this two-year period and since then, Farley has been paid a higher salary.
As he continues to work, which will be for at least two years, he will pay into the pension system but won’t see his benefits increase because he has put in the maximum amount of time.