No earnings cap for retirees could ease driver shortage in NY

UniteGPS – Albany legislators recently scrapped the earnings cap for retirees in hopes of solving the ongoing bus driver shortage, according to the New York State Comptroller’s website. Prompted by Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY) following her State of the State Address, any pay earned by retirees between Sept. 27 and Jan. 25, 2022, will not count towards the annual Retiree Earnings Limit of $35,000.

Albany, NY

Further reading: NY GOV. AIMS FOR 100% ELECTRIC SCHOOL BUS FLEET BY 2035

Already two years into the pandemic, New York State continues to feel the repercussions of COVID-19 after losing between 15 and 20 percent of its drivers, according to David Christopher, executive director of the New York Association for Pupil Transportation. 

“Driving a school bus is one of the most important jobs in our state and we are struggling to find enough school bus drivers to do the job each day,” said Christopher. He hopes that lifting the earnings cap for retirees working in education will ease the bus driver shortage while attracting new candidates to school districts and private operators.

“We believe that lifting the retirement cap is an important step toward solving this problem.”

Policy to lift earnings cap for retirees

Agreeing with Gov. Hochul, Christopher contends that getting rid of the current pay ceiling standing at $35,000 in New York State could attract more retirees to drive school buses. Without a limit, state retirees therefore won’t be penalized if they exceed earnings from a statewide entity.

Last September, Senator Mike Martucci (R-NY) drafted a bill to toss the maximum salary for retirees in hopes of improving the manner in which school districts both recruit and retain bus drivers. As over two million children across the state depend on riding a bus to attend school, Martucci says this issue won’t be going away anytime soon. 

“New York’s schools continue to face major shortages of school bus drivers and the industry has forecasted that the problem will only get worse going into next year,” said Martucci, who formally ran his own school bus company.

“The state’s retirement earnings cap is a significant impediment to retirees who want to drive a school bus and it’s clear something needs to be done to allow our school districts to hire these folks.”

According to a statement by the New York State United Teachers Union, more competitive wages for bus drivers will ultimately allure more applicants to these vacant positions. Further complicating the search for qualified bus drivers, however, are new federal CDL training regulations approaching on Feb. 7, 2022. 

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