Nevada’s double-dipping pension law under fire | NevadaAppeal.com
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Nevada’s double-dipping pension law under fire

RENO, Nev. (AP) – Some public employees in Nevada continue to legally collect salaries and retirement checks at the same time while the state struggles with a historic budget deficit.

Nearly 700 state employees have taken advantage of the state’s double-dipping law since it was passed in 2001, a Reno newspaper reported. The law allows some retired workers on pensions to return to state jobs and earn paychecks where a “critical labor shortage” exists.

As of this month, 14 retired workers who were rehired before July 2003 – when the law changed to require recertification every two years – remain in such jobs, including senior judges, bus drivers and special education teachers, documents show.

Supporters of the law say that certain positions would remain empty if they couldn’t use retirees, particularly at schools or hospitals in rural Nevada.

“I have always argued in support of it,” said state schools Superintendent Keith Rheault. “It didn’t solve our teacher-shortage problems, but it helped.”

But critics say it’s unfair for one group of workers to collect twice from a cash-strapped state while another worker down the hall earns one paycheck. And some say the program has been abused from the start by people who should not have been in it or who retired only to be rehired the next day.

“What lawmakers should be doing is making sure the people who double-dip didn’t leave service for the purpose of double-dipping, including teachers,” said retired Carson City Sheriff Paul McGrath, an outspoken opponent of the program.

About 44 percent of employees placed into critical-labor-shortage positions by 2008 had never left the work force but simply continued working, according to a study by the Segal Co., a national independent consulting firm specializing in employee benefits.

“It’s a good place for the governor to look, especially in the education budget,” McGrath said . “If nobody watches or keeps track of it, they’ll be on there forever.”

Heidi Gansert, chief of staff for Gov. Brian Sandoval, said the administration has not focused on critical-labor-shortage positions during its scrutiny of the budget.

“It’s always important that the state hires appropriately,” she said, adding it was up to the Department of Education to make staffing decisions within its budget constraints.

The state retirement program spent $54.4 million on double-dipping employees from 2001 to 2008, according to a study done for the Legislature. The next report isn’t due until 2014.

Current double-dippers include a Carson School District bus driver who has been collecting both pay and pension checks since 2002 and a White Pine County project manager who has been doing the same for about a decade, the Gazette-Journal reported.

The top five employers of double dippers have been Clark County schools with 380, Washoe County schools with 105, the judicial system with 26 senior judges, the university system with 18 and Lyon County schools with 14, according to the Public Employees Retirement System.