By REUVEN BLAU
Last Updated: 7:04 AM, January 23, 2011
No wonder the state Of New York has a $10 billion budget deficit.
The number of retired state employees pulling down pensions of more than $100,000 surged a startling 43 percent last year, from 1,059 in 2009 to 1,513, according to the state Comptroller's Office.
"This is like hitting the lottery -- virtually nobody in the private sector has a guaranteed six-figure income with health benefits," said E.J. McMahon, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute think tank.
Four of the retirees make more than $200,000 annually, according to documents obtained by The Post through a Freedom of Information request.
All told, the six-figure pensioners cost taxpayers $123 million a year.
The spike in the $100,000-plus club is partially due to 6,372 employees who raced to take advantage of the state's early-retirement incentive offered by Gov. David Paterson's administration in an attempt to save $95 million this year.
The early-retirement sweetener usually goes to state workers who were planning to retire anyway, raising long-term pension expenses, fiscal watchdogs and government insiders say.
Between 1983 and 2002, state lawmakers approved 10 early-retirement bills, according to the Empire Center for New York State Policy. The most recent, in 2002, attracted 5,562 employees and added $249 million in pension costs over five years, the center said.
"The system is just completely out of line with reality," McMahon said.
At the state's largest pension system, employees contributed $284 million while state taxpayers shelled out $2.3 billion in payouts to retirees in fiscal year 2010, according to the Empire Center.
About one out of every seven cops and firefighters from the suburbs and upstate municipalities who retired last year is receiving a six-figure state pension, according to data compiled by the Empire Center. That's because they are paid high salaries, and often pad their pensions by putting in huge amounts of overtime in their final years.