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Double dip not unique in state

While provisions of Assembly Bill 555 have drawn protests, the practice of allowing public employees to collect both salary and their retirement is not new in state government.

In one way or another, several hundred state workers and officials are “double dipping” – receiving a public pension and a public salary at the same time.

Traditionally, the law has said public employees can’t collect their state pension while working for a public entity in Nevada.

Under the old law, a retired California teacher could sign on with Carson City School District and collect both that salary and the California pension, but a retired Nevada teacher couldn’t take the same job without giving up his or her pension.

Likewise, Capitol Police have hired several retirees from other states, including the Los Angeles and Chicago police departments. They receive their pensions as well as salary in Nevada. But if the Capitol Police hired a retired Nevada sheriff’s deputy or Nevada Highway Patrol trooper, the officer would have to give up his pension when he went to work.

The law became controversial when the first “critical shortage” designation was used to let Public Safety Director Richard Kirkland add his $70,000-plus pension to his $103,301 salary. Assembly Government Affairs Chairman Doug Bache, D-Las Vegas, said the law was never envisioned as an opportunity for top public officials.

In fact, a number of employees and officials in Nevada are collecting both a Nevada public pension and their salary.

Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Lorne Malkiewich said the largest number is probably in the legislative branch. He said the Legislature has had an exemption from the pension-or-salary restriction since the 1980s. Most, he said, are temporary “session hires” who fill secretarial, support and other positions during a legislative session.

“One of our very good sources of employees is state workers who have retired and come back to work for a few months,” he said, adding they wouldn’t do it if they had to give up their pensions.

But he said there are also several permanent legislative employees who receive both pension and salary from members of the Legislative Police to Jackie Sneddon, chief clerk of the Assembly. She worked for welfare and the executive branch 30 years and retired before taking the Assembly job.

George Pyne, director of the Nevada Public Employees Retirement System, said there are numerous other examples as well. He said retired public employees elected to public office are allowed to draw retirement as well as salary. That includes a large number of teachers and others who have served in the Legislature as well as other elected posts in state and local government.

And Pyne pointed out there are hundreds of military and federal retirees working for the state who collect both their federal pension and state salaries.

Historically, Pyne said, Social Security, the military, state and even private retirement systems prohibited workers from collecting retirement while still working.

“They wanted younger workers to be able to enter the work force and take jobs older people had held,” he said. “They wanted an orderly transition so they said, ‘Look, retirees, you can come back to work but we’re really going to ding you.”

He said in recent years, with low unemployment even the federal government has relaxed the limits on how much retirees can make under social security and moved the retirement age up.

Other systems have also made changes to relax the restrictions on retirees who want to continue working.

But the long-term affect of those changes remains unknown.