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Steve Levy calls for overhaul of state pension system

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, warning the present state pension system is about to "collapse like a house of cards," called an overhaul that would limit the amount of overtime included in pension calculations.

"The present public pension system is unsustainable," said Levy, noting that Suffolk County faces a $50 million increase in pension costs next year.

Levy, in a Hauppauge news conference Tuesday, said the 20 percent of overtime that state, school and municipal employees are now allowed to include as part of their final average salary should be cut to 10 percent. Levy had no estimate of the savings from the move.

Levy, who is seeking the GOP nod for governor, said the new state legislation creating a tier five for new state and municipal employees would cut the overtime allowed in the final average salaries to 15 percent, but the impact of that measure will not be felt for decades. "I'm proposing legislation to stop it now," he said.

Levy said he wants a reduction and not an end to use of overtime because some workers have overtime built into their normal salaries. He wants to end the abuse where workers can pile up overtime at the end of their career to unduly inflate pensions based on their final salary.

Levy also said new state public employees should be put into a 401(k)-type plan, rather than the current pension system, where the government's contribution would be limited. Those in the state pension system should be given a choice to opt for a 401(k)-type benefit, which would make it portable if the worker moves to another job, he said.

He said state university employees currently have that option.

Carl Paladino, another GOP gubernatorial candidate, did not return a call for comment.

Barney Keller, a spokesman for GOP gubernatorial rival Rick Lazio, said, "The last thing we need in Albany is another liberal Democrat like Steve Levy, who has taken over $400,000 in campaign contributions from the very same special interests that are stretching New York's pension system beyond the breaking point."

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