ALBANY, N.Y. — With less than two months left in New York State's legislative session, lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow public employees in the state system to retire this year if they're 50 or older and have accrued 25 years of service.

The bill also would eliminate early retirement penalties for employees 55 or older with at least 10 years.

"Many constituents had reached out and were interested in this, specifically after dealing with COVID, and felt that it would be time for them to like to leave their position and move into retirement," Assembly sponsor Marianne Buttenschon said.

While the legislation would mean more people in the retirement system sooner, Buttenschon said many school districts have told her it would be a net savings because they would be replacing higher tier employees with much less expensive new hires. It comes at a time when districts and agencies have faced financial uncertainty because of the pandemic as well.

"This would afford an opportunity for various districts and state entities to opt in," she said.

New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta said the incentive is one of the union's priorities before the end of session.

"It is a long-term savings," Pallotta said. "We're talking about something where the senior people who would be retiring make a whole lot more than people coming into the profession. We're also looking to get new people to come into the profession."

Pallotta said NYSUT would also support a narrower bill if other unions don't get on board this year.

"Being able to get this for educational employees would be our goal. If other entities did not want it, that is fine for them," he said.

Public employees in New York City were already granted the incentive in this year's budget. Buttenschon said she was unhappy with the regional inequity, but part of the reason it happened was New York City employers, unions and employees had already started talks well ahead of the budget process.

"Clearly we need to continue the discussion as I talk to employees that are interested in this, remind them to reach out of their unions to make sure that the unions are aware of the conversation, because many of the unions outside the city were not aware of how many of their employees were interested in this," she said.

The assemblywoman said they need to have a clear idea how many employees would be interested in order to better understand the fiscal implication, and ensure there remains a viable workforce in the schools and state entities.