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Donoghue's bill would boost pensions of some Md. correctional officers

February 06, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS -- High-ranking state correctional officers would get a pension boost under a bill Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, has proposed again.

Officers currently receive retirement pay equal to 1.82 percent of their average final salary times the number of years they served, according to a fiscal summary attached to the bill.

Donoghue's bill proposes a second tier, in which lieutenants, captains and majors would use a standard of 2.5 percent to determine their retirement benefits.

The rate for all other officers, including sergeants, would dip from 1.82 to 1.8.

The change could cost the state about $2.4 million in fiscal year 2010, with more costs in subsequent years, according to the summary.

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Donoghue testified in favor of his bill Tuesday in front of the House Appropriations Committee.

"There has not been significant enhancement in many, many years," he said.

He proposed the same bill last year, but it died in committee.

An official with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a union that represents correctional officers, testified that the bill would create a harmful imbalance.

Sue Esty, the assistant director of AFSCME's Council 92, said a fairer system would be raising the retirement standard for all officers, not just some.

The two tiers Donoghue proposed "would create a tremendous amount of dissension within the correctional officers' system," she said.

Donoghue said he would work with those who want the bill to do more.

In an interview after the hearing, Esty said AFSCME is working with Del. Adrienne A. Jones, D-Baltimore County, on a bill to raise the calculation standard for all officers to 2.4 percent.

Under Jones' proposed bill, which hasn't been filed yet, employee contributions would increase from 5 percent to 6 percent, Esty said. At retirement, employees would get about 48 percent of their average salary, she said.

"It's still not enough for the work that correctional officers are expected to do," she said.

Esty told the Appropriations Committee that the state is having "almost an impossible time" filling some correctional officer jobs, putting the Division of Correction in "near crisis."

Although a recent salary increase has helped, the killing of two on-duty correctional officers in separate incidents in the last two years has made recruitment tough, she said.

"People are afraid," she said.

As of June 30, 2007, there were 7,355 active members on the Correctional Officers' Retirement System, according to the summary. The average salary was $43,306.




On the Web

Go to www.mlis.state.md.us/2008rs/billfile/hb0383.htm

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