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Policy: Entitlements

Bobby Jindal supports reversal of Edmonson pension boost

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Associated Press,Louisiana,Entitlements,Budgets and Deficits,Bobby Jindal,Pensions

BATON ROUGE, La. — Gov. Bobby Jindal believes the last-minute passage of a pension hike for his state police superintendent, Col. Mike Edmonson, was improperly handled and should be repealed, the governor's office said Tuesday.

Jindal spokesman Mike Reed said while the Republican governor knew the retirement change helped Edmonson, he didn't realize the legislation only affected two people when he signed it into law.

"It shouldn't have been handled this way. We will support legislative efforts to fix it next session," Reed said.

The change, which carries a $300,000 price tag over five years, has drawn significant criticism as a backroom deal for a political insider that sidestepped public review.

Jindal hadn't previously weighed in on the controversy, and Edmonson has said he won't take the increase and will instead ask lawmakers to look at the issue again in the next regular session, which begins in April 2015.

But that hasn't stopped continuing scrutiny of the manner in which the pension hike was tacked onto an unrelated bill and approved on the final day of the legislative session that ended in June.

"I'm embarrassed and disappointed that this law is on the books," Treasurer John Kennedy, a retirement system board member, said in a statement.

The board for the Louisiana State Police Retirement System is holding a Sept. 4 meeting to review recommendations from its attorneys, who say the retirement boost wasn't properly passed. The legal analysis recommends that the board shouldn't pay the enhanced benefits to Edmonson or the 32-year trooper in Houma also affected by the change.

The pension hike was passed with no public debate.

The sponsor of the bill, Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, said he didn't realize the implications of the last-minute add-on, which was made to Morrell's bill in a six-member legislative committee. He said he will ask lawmakers to reconsider the law change when they return next year.

Edmonson said he didn't personally ask for the change in the way his retirement benefits will be calculated. But he said he gave his staff permission to seek it for him. Edmonson said his staff gave the language to Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, to insert in the bill.

Neither Edmonson nor anyone else from the state police talked to Jindal about the retirement provision, Reed said.

The change allows Edmonson to sidestep a previous decision, made under now-obsolete rules, in which he elected to retire early and pay his pension contributions into a savings account. The decision froze his retirement benefits at that level of employment. The law change lets Edmonson retire as a full colonel instead of as a captain, so his pension payment will be calculated off the higher $134,000-per-year salary.

Despite the controversy, the governor hasn't wavered in his support of the state police leader.

"We think Colonel Edmonson is doing a great job serving and protecting the people of Louisiana," Reed said.

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