Costly Early Retirement


Those micro-managers in the General Assembly sure know how to muck up a situation. In attempting to reduce the size of the state's work force, legislators may end up costing taxpayers $39 million and leave state government in disarray.

There's a better way: Let Gov. William Donald Schaefer decide how the government should be downsized. That's what the chief executive is paid to do; legislators are just supposed to legislate.

Instead, lawmakers passed a bill offering early retirement to nearly 3,000 state workers. The sweetener: a 17 percent hike in their pensions benefits. But the cost to taxpayers and the state pension fund will be over $39 million. And because the bill also forces the governor to abolish 60 percent of the jobs being vacated through retirement, the state could wind up losing key veteran bureaucrats who could not, by law, be replaced.

How absurd! There is, though, a way out. Lawmakers gave the governor the option of vetoing the bill and then cutting 600 vacant positions himself to save a comparable amount of money. That's a far more sensible approach. State leaders can plan the job reductions with care, create long-term personnel savings and avoid a $39 million raid on the retirement fund.

For these reasons, we urge the governor to veto the early-retirement bill. It is too costly and too inflexible. And it impinges on the executive department's turf. Let's let Mr. Schaefer run the government, not the 188 delegates and senators.

Two other bills on the governor's desk also deserve vetoes. One would strip from the personnel secretary the right to make final decisions on employee suspensions. This would compound the difficulties faced by the governor and his managers in trying to make the bureaucracy efficient and answerable for its actions. Mr. Schaefer vetoed a similar measure last year. He should do so again.

Another bill worthy of a veto would force the Motor Vehicle Administration to reinstitute traveling "road crews" on the Eastern Shore to service rural communities. This "MVA-mobile" approach proved too costly in an era of cost containment: It was eliminated when the legislature and the governor cut services to balance the budget. But Sen. Frederick Malkus insisted on passage of this bill to reward the shore, regardless of the cost. Yet the House and Senate budget committees specifically instructed the governor not to spend any money on this program. The governor should go along with the budget committees and veto this bill.

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