Sen. Hugh Farley is getting on in years — he turned 81 Wednesday — so one can hardly blame him for wanting to make sure that his wife is financially secure were he to suddenly die in office, before filing for retirement and starting to collect his roughly $52,000-a-year pension.
All the same, by filing for retirement at the end of his current term (Dec. 31), then collecting his pension as well as his full salary starting in January, he’ll be double-dipping. And even if lots of public employees have done the same — Assemblyman Jack McEneny, Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy and Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, among them, with Saratoga County Clerk Kathy Marchione soon to follow — it’s an insult to hard-working or unemployed New Yorkers.
The problem, Farley asserts, is a flaw in the law: If a state worker dies before filing for retirement, his or her spouse gets zip. It doesn’t happen often because most state workers can (and do) retire at a relatively young age. Long-tenured legislators like Farley, who basically can serve for as long as they want, are obvious exceptions.
Farley notes that “a lot of people have talked about reforming this.” Talk is cheap, though, senator; how about doing something about it before you actually retire?
Even if the money is given to charity, as some lawmakers have done to deflect criticism, and even if the state technically saves money under the arrangement by no longer having to make retirement contributions, it can’t be healthy for the state’s stressed pension system. And it’s wrong for lawmakers, who are already paid handsomely for their work, to collect two paychecks at the public’s expense, even if they give one away (they take a handsome deduction for that, we suspect).
If Farley does nothing else during his 18th term, let him fix this quirk that he acknowledges is an enticement to double-dip.