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Bill seeks change in state's guard credit policy

February 26, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - Maryland state employees can earn up to three years of extra retirement credits for serving their country as a member of the Maryland National Guard.

But guardsman Brian Sharpe of Smithsburg can't get that benefit because he belongs to the West Virginia Air National Guard. His service with the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg, W.Va., doesn't qualify.

"In my estimation, this is simply not fair. I find it to be demoralizing we're offering a credit for some National Guard members and not others," said Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington.

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Shank is sponsoring a bill this session to change the state's policy and allow Sharpe and others to receive up to one year of credit.

For Sharpe, 44, it would mean an extra $800 a year when he retires from his job as a correctional supervisor at the Maryland Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown.

Sharpe testified in favor of the legislation before the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, bringing with him the Air Force Achievement Medal he won for his service in Saudi Arabia after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The committee has killed similar legislation in two previous years.

One drawback is the bill's estimated $1 million price tag.

Shank said the Department of Legislative Services estimate is too high, although he hasn't found a reliable way of tracking the number of state employees who belong to out-of-state National Guard units.

Representatives from the American Legion and the Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees also testified in favor of Shank's bill.

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