Special favors

Friday, February 4, 2005

Last September, when then-governor Bob Holden named former state legislator Bill Foster to the Missouri Labor and Industrial Relations Commission, Foster's state pension immediately plumped up to $47,615 annually from $18,288 a year .

Foster's appointment was rescinded when Gov. Matt Blunt took office last month. Foster still hopes to be reappointed, but his pension will remain intact whether he is or isn't.

There are 57 individuals in state government whose jobs are subject to this special pension system that provides huge retirement benefits. They are mostly administrative law judges and others whose functions are quasi-judicial. Not everyone who has these kinds of jobs gets this special retirement pay, but governors sometimes have given these perks as rewards.

Holden was not the first governor to hand out jobs with candy-covered pensions. The practice reaches back at least to the early 1980s. But during Holden's term, eight different commissioners were appointed to the labor commission. Six of those were never confirmed by the Senate. Those appointments were made during a legislative recess, and the commissioners resigned before the Senate reconvened and could begin the confirmation process.

Holden also appointed some "interim" commissioners whose names were never even submitted to the Senate for confirmation. One of Holden's appointees stayed in the position just 14 days. The appointee's pension is for life.

Now the Missouri Legislature is considering bills to curtail this practice. Blunt also has pledged to close this loophole.

Most state employees have to work hard all their lives to secure retirement benefits. That the state would allow a few employees to rip off taxpayers this way is unconscionable. This must stop.

-- Nevada Daily Mail