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Alabama’s half-million dollar pension man

By By Bob Martin, The Alabama Scene
Dr. David Bronner, head of the state’s pension system, frequently lectures state government and education retirees about lobbying for cost-of-living-adjustments (COLA), saying that such increases continue to lower the funding ratio of the state’s retirement systems.
Bronner recently wrote in his newsletter that the increased number of state retirees, the fact that retirees are living longer, along with COLA, have pushed the ratio of the teachers and employees systems to percentages down to the mid-80’s, whereas the goal of the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) is to maintain the funding of the system at 100 percent.
What Bronner failed to mention is that COLA increases for active employees and teachers also contributes to the problem. The COLA for active workers in past years has pushed his already handsome annual salary to nearly $518,000. If Bronner were to retire this year, his annual retirement pay would exceed $350,000. That amount, calculated on the online RSA retirement computer, is based on his 35 years of service and an average of his best three annual salaries in the past ten years being $500,000.
And that amount doesn’t include what he could have accumulated in the DROP Plan. DROP is an optional program which offers qualified active RSA members a way to continue to work while accumulating funds in a deferred retirement account to be distributed at retirement. The requirements are that an employee or teacher has 25 years of service and is age 55. Bronner had that eight years ago shortly after the DROP plan was approved by the legislature.
So Bronner not only can be crowned the state’s highest paid worker, when he retires he will become the state’s highest paid retiree.
Governor way down on the list
Press reports this week show there are some other well-paid state officials. Post Secondary Chancellor Bradley Byrne earns $280,825; Health Officer Don Williamson is paid $225,021; Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, $196,182; Supt. of Education Joe Morton, $191,270; Atty. Gen. Troy King, $161,794; Page Walley, director of Human Resources, $160,479; Neal Wade, Alabama Development Office director, $159,499.
Based on these numbers, Gov. Bob Riley’s salary, at $112,894, is a paltry sum and the $87,936 paid to most members of his cabinet would qualify for some sort of additional government subsistence. The governor, however, does get grocery money and free transportation.
The state now has almost 35,000 state employees, not including teachers and teacher support personnel and I would wager that at least ten percent earn more than the governor. The governor should be paid at least as much as the state health officer, but, of course, nowhere near the contents of Dr. David’s goliath-size money bag.
Governor’s circle now complete
State Rep. Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, also the chair of the State Republican Party, now says the Governor’s Circle is complete.
Hubbard announced recently that he has found 100 GOP supporters willing to shell out $40,000 each to help the party attempt to take control of the State Legislature in 2010. At the start of this year’s regular session, Gov. Riley upped the ante from $4 million to $7 million, but Hubbard is apparently satisfied with the number four…as in million.
The 100 will supposedly be the only members of the circle and will be entitled to invitations to exclusive dinners with the governor and functions in Washington, will receive a Governor’s Circle VIP gift, e-mail updates, invitations to events with the party chair and GOP VIP’s, preferred seating at events and conference calls with the governor.
It wasn’t announced if the $4 million had already been collected or if some are delinquent payers they’ll be denied what was promised.
No oil rigs off Alabama coast
For those of us who hang out on Alabama’s coast occasionally, there was good news this past week from Conservation Commissioner Barnett Lawley, who says President Bush’s offshore oil drilling proposal won’t have much affect on our coastal waters.
Lawley says that most of Alabama’s state waters along the coast have been leased for the drilling for natural gas, not oil. He said that the state’s experience with drilling has been good and that natural gas is a clean mineral that doesn’t pose the same environmental concerns as oil.
Montgomery Independent. E-mail him at: bob@montgomeryindepencent.com.

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