Blunt signs law ending special state pensions

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Gov. Matt Blunt on Tuesday signed legislation eliminating lucrative retirement benefits enjoyed by a handful of administrative law judges that critics have long complained were used to reward political cronies of Missouri governors.

Under the new law, which took effect immediately, new administrative judges hired to posts that previously had been included in the special pension plan will instead be covered by the standard, and less generous, retirement system in which most state employees participate. The law doesn't touch benefits for the approximately 60 active state workers already participating in the special plan.

"In the future this will not be a system that is susceptible to abuse by the gubernatorial appointment process," Blunt said.

The bill enjoyed overwhelming legislative support, passing 30-1 in the Senate and 136-15 in the House of Representatives.

The special pension was available only to certain administrative law judges and some others in quasi-judicial posts. State Sen. Jason Crowell, the bill's sponsor, said the law cuts up a golden parachute that benefited a select few.

"This was done to bring sanity back into an abused retirement system," Crowell said. "I'm very glad the governor made this a priority and signed this into law."

Although critics have long blasted the plan, it was frequent turnover on the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission during the previous Democratic administration that brought the controversy to the forefront and sparked calls for reform. Several of then-governor Bob Holden's appointees served on the commission briefly -- in one instance just two weeks -- and left with substantial increases in their retirement benefits.

Other governors, both Republicans and Democrats, were also accused of using commission openings and the generous pension that went with them to reward allies, particularly former lawmakers.

The bills is SB 202.

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