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Report: NC law boosts lawmaker retirement

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A North Carolina law that allows part-time lawmakers to add an expense stipend to their base salary when calculating retirement benefits boosts their pensions by more than 30 percent, according to a newspaper report.

The percentage of salary lawmakers receive as an annual payout is more than double the rate afforded most state workers, the News & Observer of Raleigh reported Sunday.

Retiring House Minority Leader Joe Hackney can expect to receive a $41,000 annual pension for life starting next year. The paper reports that the expense stipend adds more than $10,000 to the 66-year-old Chapel Hill Democrat’s annual pension.

Among other lawmakers retiring in 2012 with hefty pensions are Democratic Reps. Dewey Hill and Maggie Jeffus and Republican Sen. Jean Preston, each of whom will draw $15,494 a year, and Democratic Reps. Bill Owens and Larry Womble, who will retire with $14,949 a year. Democratic Sen. Bill Purcell will draw $13,288 a year, and six more lawmakers will receive about $10,000 or more a year at age 65, the paper found.

In all, the paper says the pension bonus means the state will pay $102,000 extra a year to the 28 lawmakers in the system who are retiring this year.

But even some lawmakers said they were unaware of the pension perks.

“As deep and wide as I’ve been into the pension system, I didn’t know about it,” said Republican Rep. Dale Folwell, who sponsored the pension reform bill signed into law last June and is retiring to campaign for lieutenant governor.

Lawmakers calculate retirement by taking their highest salary in 12 consecutive months. For most state workers, it’s an average of their four highest-pad consecutive years.

Folwell said he believes lawmakers should be on the same pension system as state employees.

Toni Davis, spokeswoman for the State Employees Association of North Carolina, said her group agrees.

“Our members would say, `What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,”’ Davis said. It’s unfair for the legislature to receive a full-time pension for part-time work.”

Information from: The News & Observer

This story was written and provided by The Associated Press Wire.  (Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)