Senators vote generous pensions for ex-governors

Glendening has potential for the largest payout

March 22, 2002|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

A Republican senator from Baltimore County tried unsuccessfully yesterday to scale back proposed pension improvements for former governors, saying Gov. Parris N. Glendening would unduly benefit because he is expected to live the longest.

The effort by Sen. Andrew P. Harris failed on a 14-30 vote that largely followed party lines.

Instead, the Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill raising the pensions of retired two-term governors by linking them to the current salary of the chief executive, instead of the salary they were collecting when they left office.

In the short term, the proposal would benefit former Gov. Marvin Mandel the most. A year ago, Mandel, who left office in 1979, received $32,996 in pension benefits. If the bill passes, he and other ex-governors will get $67,500 next year, rising to $75,000 in four years, when the governor's salary escalates to $150,000.

Mandel is one of three living ex-governors, all of whom served two terms and are eligible for maximum pensions. Because William Donald Schaefer is still receiving paychecks as comptroller, he does not receive retirement payments. Former Gov. Harry R. Hughes, who served from 1979-1987, received a $51,892 pension last year.

But over time, Harris said, Glendening - who will leave office next year because he cannot seek reelection -stands to collect the most money. Glendening is 59, and actuarial tables predict he will live 19 more years.

Glendening's new wife, Jennifer E. Crawford, 35, would receive half his pension after he dies.

"The 59-year-old would clearly get a bigger chunk of the benefits," Harris said. "I think it's fiscally prudent" to limit the payments, he said.

Instead of linking benefits to the current governor's salary, Harris' amendment would have raised the pension for ex-governors to $60,000 a year, plus cost-of-living adjustments.

"It saves half the cost" of the proposed improvement, Harris said. The full price is estimated at $856,000 over time.

Pension issues are a sensitive topic for Glendening, the former Prince George's County executive who came under fire soon after his first election as governor in 1994 for helping engineer generous benefit improvements for top county aides, some of whom collected them when they joined the state administration.

Michael Morrill, a Glendening spokesman, said the governor did not ask for the pension change, noting that the recommendations were "done by an independent commission so that politics aren't drawn into it."

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