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Governor signs pension restoration bill


Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday night gave final approval to a bill that will restore pension benefits for 12 workers in Jefferson County, capping a months-long saga during which the dozen development workers thought they had lost their retirement plans.

“On a personal level, it takes a huge weight off the back of myself and my family as far as our future goes,” said Jay M. Matteson, one of the employees who will get back 11 years of credit in the state retirement system.

The bookend for the employees’ ordeal comes amid hastily organized plans for the employees’ retirement plans.

In February, state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, who oversees the state pension system, announced he was revoking pension credits for the 12 employees.

The employees did not work for the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency, a government body whose employees are entitled to pension benefits, Mr. DiNapoli said.

They were employees of sub-agencies called local development corporations, which are nonprofit groups.

Lawyers for the IDA disagreed, but Mr. DiNapoli’s office has the last word within the channels of the state pension system.

To rectify what they considered an unfair decision, the employees appealed to state legislators. The legislators passed a law that gave the employees back their credits and allowed them to keep collecting them until Wednesday.

That means the IDA will have to figure out a new pension system for its employees on the fly. One of the sub-agencies, the Watertown Trust, will operate independently, and its employees will forgo further credits in the state pension system.

Nine employees of four other LDCs will be hired by the IDA and will enroll again in the state pension system.

The four LDCs will dissolve, but the work the employees do won’t change, said Donald C. Alexander, the IDA’s chief executive officer.

“They’re not leaving our employ,” Mr. Alexander said. “They’re still here.”

State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, sponsored the bill.

“This has been a fairness issue for me all along,” Mrs. Ritchie said. “I’m certainly glad the governor signed it.”

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