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Albany should cast a wide net in pension-stripping bill

Legislators work in the Assembly Chamber at the

Legislators work in the Assembly Chamber at the Capitol in Albany on March 25, 2015. Credit: AP

With Albany, it’s often hard to know the real status of a bill until the ink is dry and all the votes are taken. Even then, you often need a codebreaker to figure out what’s been passed. So we are guardedly optimistic about progress on legislation that would strip state pensions from public officials convicted of corruption.

But we implore lawmakers from both the Senate and the Assembly, Republicans and Democrats alike, to cast a wide net. Don’t minimize the number of people subject to the law. We understand that the public demand for pension forfeiture is driven by the high-profile corruption convictions as people like former Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Majority Leader Dean Skelos, whose combined pensions are more than $175,000 a year. But please, don’t settle for only elected officials and top policymakers.

Remember former Roslyn schools Superintendent Frank Tassone, who was convicted of stealing $2.2 million from the district but made off with an annual pension of $175,295? And his colleague Pamela Gluckin, who pleaded guilty to grand larceny and draws a $57,050 pension? We would love to include workers like Joyce Mitchell, who will keep her pension despite pleading guilty to smuggling into Clinton Correctional Facility hacksaw blades, chisels, a steel punch and two concrete drill bits used by convicted murderers David Sweat and Richard Matt in last summer’s escape. But Mitchell was a union employee, and adding collective bargaining positions is an Assembly deal-breaker. So the overriding goal here is to get pension forfeiture passed.

The basic principle is simple: Violate the public trust, lose your public pension. It’s up to lawmakers and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to make sure that applies to as many people who are paid by taxpayers as possible.

— The editorial board