Unemployment compensation is an important safety net for people who have lost their jobs, something to help them get by until they find new employment.

It's not a giant tub of chocolate ice cream, there for relatively comfortable former state employees to indulge themselves.

State Rep. Pat Vance, a Republican whose district includes parts of York County, says retired state workers have been abusing the system by "triple dipping" -- performing temporary state jobs then collecting unemployment compensation, while at the same time receiving their pensions.

Some state agencies hire back retirees for special projects or to train new employees, she said. Because they can only work 95 days per year to remain eligible for their pensions, current unemployment law considers them "involuntarily terminated" from those jobs when they leave.

That makes them eligible for unemployment compensation.

Vance said she only recently learned of the practice -- but apparently it wasn't a secret among former state workers.

Over the past three years, 638 state pensioners collected $2.77 million in unemployment, according to data provided by Vance's office.

Keep in mind, this was during a period of high unemployment, when many people actually needed that aid to put a roof over their heads and food on their tables.

The retirees weren't using the money as a safety net, though. They were taking it "because they could," Vance said.

That's "just robbing the taxpayers, plain and simple," she said.


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And Vance, along with almost all of her colleagues in the Legislature, thinks it's time to take the scoop away.

She sponsored legislation that would make people who voluntarily leave employment to prevent a reduction in their pension or other benefits ineligible for unemployment. It received overwhelming support in the Senate, which approved the bill 49-0 and sent it to the House for consideration.

Since the House already has unanimously passed a similar "triple dipping" bill of its own, a version should be making its way to Gov. Tom Corbett's desk soon.

Hopefully, he'll sign it.

We understand some state retirees might need extra income to supplement their pensions.

If that's the case, though, they should get a part-time job in the private sector -- not work the system so taxpayers end up paying even more for their retirements.