I-Team 10 investigation preview: Pension perk

Posted at: 08/02/2012 6:02 PM
Updated at: 08/03/2012 8:53 AM
By: Brett Davidsen

There's been a lot of talk about pension reform in New York State. But I-Team 10 has discovered a pension perk government workers get that private sector retirees don't.

They say there are two things you can't avoid in life...death and taxes. In New York that may be true about death. But if you're a retired public worker with a pension, you can avoid the state taxes.

Currently, anyone over the age of 59 1/2 from the private sector will pay state income tax on a pension above $20,000.

But I-Team 10 has learned that retired government workers and teachers pay no state income tax at all on their pensions...something that got us wondering why they're entitled to special tax breaks that aren't available to everyone else.

So we went to the state's top fiscal watchdog for an explanation. Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli oversees the state pension fund. He says the tax break is an incentive to keep New Yorkers from migrating to other states.

"I think we need to keep in mind that 80% of the retirees from our system choose to live in New York. Perhaps having that tax break is one reason why they live here," says DiNapoli.

But if that's the argument, why not make that break available to everyone?

We spoke to a lawmaker who is trying to do just that. You'll hear from him and from a retiree for their reactions, and we'll crunch the numbers to find out how much the state could rake in if everyone paid income tax on their pensions.

Our I-Team 10 investigation is coming up Friday night after the Olympics.