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Double-dipping, or collecting a state pension while receiving a significant paycheck from another public-sector job, usually irks taxpayers. Now, with joblessness higher than it's been in decades, illegal double-dipping is even more costly, since every job filled by a pensioner keeps someone else unemployed.

The good news is that there may soon be progress, starting in Suffolk County, in checking for illegal double-dippers, those who get pensions from the state while earning more than $30,000 per year in new government jobs.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli will soon begin matching Suffolk's payroll information against state pension data to see who's getting what. It's a pilot program that DiNapoli plans to expand statewide.

The state should have started checking public employment and pension rolls when most double-dipping was outlawed in 1995. But the comptroller's office didn't have access to the appropriate database until legislation passed this year granted it, starting in 2012. Until then, Suffolk has given DiNapoli access to its records for a trial run.

Public entities can always get waivers to hire employees on public pensions, but they must first do a search to show there is no one better for the job.

Illegal double-dipping may not be a significant problem, but the only way to know is to check. If there are people doing this, they need to be stopped, and this program is a good start. hN