To paraphrase the theme song from Disney’s Dumbo, I seen a peanut stand, heard a rubber band/ I seen a needle that winked its eye/ But I be done seen about everything/ When I see a Star editorial make sense.
The headline of the editorial by the Kansas City Star’s Dave Helling asks a perfectly logical question, “Why are Kansas and Missouri still paying for elected officials’ public pensions?”
Helling cites the case of Ron Finley, an incoming Jackson County legislator, a job that pays $35,000 a year. Finley, a Democrat, won a contested three-way primary but faced no Republican opposition in the November 2018 election.
Finley had previously served in the legislator and is currently receiving a pension for that service, if “service” is the right word. Last week, his colleagues passed a special exemption for Finley that allows him to receive his pension while he is receiving his salary. If this were not scam enough, Finley previously served on the Kansas City, MIssouri, City Council and receives a pension for that service as well.
As Helling notes, the problem is not so much Finley as the system that encourages people like him. “With just a few exceptions,” he writes, “state legislators and statewide elected officials are eligible for public pensions in Kansas and Missouri.” The larger question he asks, and it is a good one, is “why do elected officials get any public pension at all?”
Pensions for elected officials are expensive, but worse, they encourage individuals to look upon public office as a career, not as an act of service to the community.
Where we would take issue with Helling is his contention that regular government workers are “entitled to whatever pensions they can negotiate.” The problem here is that public service unions often negotiate with officials the unions helped elect and to whom the officials are beholden.
This is a problem that plagues blue states in which the public service unions have been calling the shots for decades. Come negotiation time, who exactly represents the taxpayer?