Politics & Government

Bill from N.C. state Sen. Soles would boost a buddy's pension

RALEIGH — As the North Carolina legislature struggles to close an $800 million budget deficit, Sen. R.C. Soles has filed a bill to sweeten the pension of a longtime friend and political ally.

The bill would almost certainly benefit just one person: District Attorney Rex Gore, who lost to an opponent in the Democratic primary earlier this month.

Under current law, judges and district attorneys can begin collecting their pensions when they turn 65, or when they complete 24 years of service.

Soles' bill would allow judges or district attorneys to begin collecting their pensions at age 62 if they have 20 or more years of service. That means Gore could collect his pension immediately upon leaving office in January, rather than waiting until he turns 65 in April of 2013.

Gore, who has about 22 years of service, said he became aware of his predicament after his loss in the primary.

"I absolutely talked with [Soles] about this," Gore said in a telephone interview. "After I lost, I got to looking at the retirement plan and discovered this loophole. ... When I did my own calculation I saw that I would lose 5 percent."

The bill brought harsh words from some good government advocates.

"At a time when we are cutting teachers and cutting health care spending for the poor, the notion that we are going to pad elected officials' retirements is insane," political activist Joe Sinsheimer said. "I would hope there will be an ethics investigation."

The bill could theoretically affect five of the 563 contributing members of the judicial retirement plan, according to data provided by the State Retirement System.

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