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Monday, July 28, 2014

Alfonse D'Amato
Welcome to Long Island, home of the six-figure pension

In the Feb. 3 issue of Newsday, the front-page story headlined the Long Islanders who topped New York state’s six-figure pension list.

For me, the shock value of Nassau County police pensions has faded slightly, but imagine my surprise when I learned that the recently retired former director of the Northport-East Northport Public Library will collect a $170,000-a-year pension, the second-largest among Long Island retirees.

Now, we all love our public libraries, but can you imagine a $170,000 taxpayer-funded pension for a librarian, let alone a salary that high? Let’s remember that the pension doesn’t include all of the benefits in the retirement package.

Meanwhile, the blame game continues, as lawmakers attempt to identify the reason for the state’s fiscal problems. Well, let me help them out. The answer starts with pensions, and the reform must begin right here on Long Island.

According to State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, more than 400 public employees began collecting pensions of $100,000 or more in 2011 and 2012, increasing the number of six-figure pensions by more than 25 percent. Long Island retirees dominate that list. And you wonder why taxpayers are fed up? It is ridiculous for a librarian to be earning a taxpayer-funded pension of $170,000 a year.

This comes at a time when municipalities around the state are struggling to control and pay continuously rising pension costs. Governor Cuomo has attempted to stop the bleeding by enacting a pension reform bill for new hires. The new Tier VI plan limits pension benefits, increases the retirement age from 62 to 63 and increases the employee contribution rate.

This is a giant leap in the right direction. The reform bill is expected to save $80 billion over 30 years. It will take time, however, before the state reaps the benefits of the bill and starts seeing savings.

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