Thursday, December 30, 2010

[Guest essay] Legislators should be paid once for their work, not twice

The Plattsburgh Press-Republican reported that North Country Assemblywomen Teresa Sayward and Janet Duprey will both be "retiring" on December 31 before starting their new terms the following day. This will allow them to collect both a salary and a pension, a controversial tactic commonly referred to as "double dipping." This has particularly galled many people since Sayward and Duprey frequently brag about their 'fiscally conservative' credentials. Although the Syracuse Post-Standard reports that the tactic is not limited to state legislators who claim to support smaller government and less spending. This loophole was recognized as being inappropriate and was closed several years ago by the legislature but Sayward and Duprey were grandfathered in. The pair defended their double dipping in an interview with North Country Public Radio. Post-Star columnist Will Doolittle said that everyone else does it, so why shouldn't pro-smaller government legislators. A local resident disagrees.

Guest essay
by Benjamin Lapham

In a survey (available here) prior to the election this past November, Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward had this to say:

Government is too big, there are too many agencies, authorities, political appointments and benefits are way too rich, Albany needs to lead by example and move to computerize the legislature, make all allocations for the legislature equal as is currently done in congress, and budget for only the basic needs of the state, health, education and welfare, retirement benefits are unsustainable, as a start all politicians should be taken out of the NYS Retirement System and put into a 401K type of benefit, no one should be receiving retirement benefits without paying into the system, realistically the deficit will not be addressed until special interests are taken out of the mix, this can happen if there were term limits on all elected NYS officials, 4 year terms, three terms max.

One might think that because Sayward is concerned about limiting service in the Assembly, that her upcoming retirement on 12/31/2010 is a case where a public official is putting her words into action. And I suppose it is a kind of action, in as much as hypocrisy is an action. Because, you see, she will be beginning her new term on 1/1/2011. This will allow her to collect two checks for one job (see here).

In Sayward’s own words, she defends her decision to “retire” for a few hours and unethically pull down two checks (a retirement check for her 2010 term as well as a check for her 2011 term) as a benefit for her husband. “We were dairy farmers,” Sayward said. “All he has is social security and the little bit we were able to put aside.” “It simply was a decision I made to protect my husband,” she said.

Wouldn’t the ethical thing be to provide better Social Security benefits for everyone? If she thinks it is a concern of dairy farmers, what other dairy farmer benefited by her taking a check for Assembly and also cashing a check for being retired from the exact same job? It is grift, pure and simple. If it were not, why would this “loophole” have been closed in 2005 (see here).

Sayward says, "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." This is an insult to every person in her district who are paid once for their labor. Teresa Sayward has gone to Albany under the pretense of making New York State a better place to do business, but has proven the only one she is benefitting is the family of Teresa Sayward.

1 comment:

semi234 said...

I saw this in the paper earlier.

Another illustration how corrupt our government is. When we Joe Civilian does exactly that, we have to pick one or the other AND make restitution. When our politican do it, they're "entitled" to it.