Jaye: Triple-dippers are draining governments in Michigan

Michigan offers ‘golden handcuffs’ to longtime workers who want to retire, denying opportunities for advancement to younger ones

To the Editor:

The triple dippers program allows some public employees to triple dip, which is: to “retire” and start receiving their pensions and salaries at the same time to do the same job, while not paying 3% of their salary into the taxpayer-funded pension program, like every other public employee. (Former state senator takes a lick at triple dippers, May 6)

At the end of a five- or six-year term, the “public servant” will receive a pension cash bonus payout. Triple dippers cash out unused vacation, personal and sick leave at their final highest salary, not the salary when the unused days were earned, which artificially spikes their final year’s pay, on which pensions are based.

Triple dippers collect all pay increases, insurance benefits, bonuses and promotions during these five years then collect a taxpayer-paid pension and health benefits for life when they retire for the second time. Some triple dippers retire permanently, others continue working. Triple dippers are enrolled in the “Deferred Retirement Option Program.”

In Macomb County, 183 retired politicians and public employees are taking $13.4 million in salaries and $32.4 million in pension payments at the same time, to do the same job they'd been doing. This puts stress on public coffers.

Many triple dippers are non-core mission employees, including cooks, janitors, cashiers, 25 secretaries and a part-time van driver. See the full report on triple dippers in Macomb County. The highest cash bonus payout in Macomb County is $503,672, and 150 triple dippers take over $100,000. Some triple dippers are taking overtime more than 70% of their posted salary.

Taxpayers pay 43 Michigan State Police officers over $300,000, and seven more than $400,000, not to retire. Michigan State Police officers and secretaries get a full pension after 25 years in law enforcement, even if they are under age 50.

Michigan State Police Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue retired with a $502,000 pension bonus and a $91,920 annual pension. No private company allows such abuses. 

Michigan State Police and the Sterling Heights police refuse to release the names of their police triple dippers.

Excessive taxpayer-paid pension cash bonuses are “golden handcuffs,” incentivizing senior officers who are burned out physically and mentally, who want to retire, to keep working. This denies younger, healthier, and better-educated officers opportunities to be promoted.

Instead of fattening the paycheck of overpaid, over-the-hill politicians and bureaucrats, we should replace triple dippers with young, freshly educated, and trained employees at entry-level salaries, saving approximately 40%, which could be spent on roads, seniors, veterans, and tax cuts.

Pressure your Macomb County officials and candidates for State Legislature and governor to outlaw triple dipping, require payment of 3% of salary into the pension program, and mandate that public employees who are convicted of felonies or misdemeanors of stealing from taxpayers shall lose taxpayer-paid pensions.

David Jaye is a former Michigan lawmaker and a researcher at tripledippers.org.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.