Pensions from the Top
The Wisconsin report didn’t compare starting retirement salaries. It simply catalogued the elements each state used to calculate the amount. To do the calculation, you take a worker’s final average salary (usually the average of the last three, four or five years of employment), multiply that by the number of years of service, and multiply that by a percentage that varies widely.
In that light, the thing that ought to really bother taxpayers isn’t so much the huge pensions (although they are rightly eye-catching), but the path that some people take to them. Take this guy, for instance:
Former House Speaker Matty Smith retired in 1993 with a $73,000 pension that reflected his 15 years as a legislator and his much higher-paying stint as state court administrator before he — and then-Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Fay — were forced to resign amid a scandal over a high-level cover-up of the theft of court money. …
Smith’s pension is based on his 15 years as a part-time legislator, his 5 1/2 years as Supreme Court administrator, his 4 1/2 years as a Providence schoolteacher in the 1960s, another 4 1/2 years of credit — he was allowed to buy at a one-time cost of $432 — for his years as an archivist and special lecturer in history at Providence College, and 6 months in the Army.
With 3-percent compounded annual increases, Smith’s pension has grown to $100,078.56.
There’s so much that’s clearly wrong with this scenario that it feels redundant to list it all, but the largest part is basing a pension on a high-end political patronage job and many years as a part-time legislator. That alone creates incentive for corruption, because securing that golden retirement depends upon maintaining a political position for a long time and being in sufficient good graces with public administrators empowered to grant high-salary jobs to cash in those years of “public service.”