(Bloomberg News) Bill Treacy retired as executive director of the Texas Public Accountancy Board in 2003. Rehired to the same job a month later, he's been pulling down both a government paycheck and a pension ever since.
"The job has to go to somebody and if you get someone with experience, you don't have to train a newcomer," Treacy, 68, a 40-year state employee who makes an annual salary of $120,000, said in a telephone interview. "It's an injustice to say that this is taking advantage of the system."
With U.S. unemployment averaging 8.9%, so-called double-dipping by tens of thousands of government workers nationwide is drawing increasing scrutiny. Lawmakers from coast to coast are taking steps to curb the practice as states face combined deficits projected at $112 billion and unfunded pension liabilities of as much as $3 trillion.
Arkansas banned double-dipping by state workers last month, while bills to curb it are pending before lawmakers in Olympia, Wash., and Trenton, N.J.
"It just drives people absolutely crazy that some public employees can draw a six-figure salary and still collect a very generous pension," said Adam Braun, a spokesman for New Jersey Senator Jennifer Beck, a Red Bank Republican. Beck has backed a bill to limit double dipping in the state, which has almost $54 billion in projected unfunded pension liabilities.
"If we had sensible rules that government employees couldn't collect a pension until age 65 or receive pension payments of more than $100,000 per year, we'd go a long way toward solving our state fiscal crises," said economist Dianna Furchtgott-Roth, a Hudson Institute senior fellow in Washington. The nonprofit research group focuses on promoting "global security, prosperity and freedom," according to its website.
In Olympia, where lawmakers face a $5.1 billon budget gap for the fiscal biennium that begins in July, the Senate passed a measure to restrict double-dipping this month. The state's unfunded pension liability is about $7 billion, Governor Christine Gregoire said in a statement Dec. 13.
"We simply cannot afford to be paying employees twice while we're struggling to fund our schools and critical services for our most vulnerable citizens," Senator Mike Hewitt, a Walla Walla Republican who leads his party in the chamber, said March 7. The bill is pending in the state House of Representatives.
More than 5,600 California state retirees were double-dipping in 2009, up 57% from a decade earlier, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Golden State's rules permit the practice as long as the retiree works 960 hours or less a year, said Adam Summers of the Los Angeles-based Reason Foundation.