Putting a damper on ‘double-dippers’

Marketplace Staff Apr 6, 2009

Putting a damper on ‘double-dippers’

Marketplace Staff Apr 6, 2009


Renita Jablonski: It’s never fun to catch a double-dipper at a cocktail party. It can be pretty gross. That stomach-turning feeling is also being described by some lawmakers when it comes to a different kind of double-dipper: people who retire from a government job and get another job. Sally Herships filed this report.

Sally Herships: Double-dipping is reaching epidemic proportions in Florida. State Senator Mike Fasano thinks so, anyway. He’s trying to close a loophole in Florida’s retirement law. Right now, some government workers can retire, start collecting their pension. and after 30 days go right back to work. They get paid and they get a pension: they double-dip.

Mike Fasano: They shouldn’t be allowed to come back and double-dip while we have such high unemployment rates.

The worst thing, Fasano says, is that Florida municipalities are hiring double-dippers and cutting jobs at the same time.

We’re gonna have to lay some people off at the state government, at the county government and at the city government. How do you look that person in the eye and say we’re going to do away with your job, but we’re going to keep the double-dipper on?

State and city governments all over the country are hiring double-dippers. It sounds controversial, but Max Stier of the Partnership for Public Service, says retirees are often the best candidates for the job:

Max Stier: “They’ve already been trained. They can hit the ground running. They know what the problems are, and you know how good they are, and you can pick the very best.

Stier says double dippers can be the cheapest option for municipalities. Two years ago, for example, he says the state department brought back retired employees to get through a massive backlog of passport applications.

Stier: Now an alternative would have been for all of those people to go work for a contractor and for the government to hire the contractor and no one would have said, “boo” but the American people would have been out a lot more money.

Double-dipping has attracted legislator’s attention in New Jersey, New York and Alabama.

Bob Behn is a lecturer at Harvard’s school of government. He says if someone double-dips in the private sector, nobody bats an eye. But when public money’s at stake double-dippers inspire moral outrage. Behn says that’s unfair.

Bob Behn: I don’t think that people are behaving badly. They are actually behaving in a way that makes sense according to the rules.

Those rules vary widely. Some states have already made it more difficult to collect a pension and a paycheck at the same time.

I’m Sally Herships for Marketplace.

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