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Soles bill would help longtime ally

As North Carolina struggles to close an $800 million deficit, Sen. R.C. Soles has filed a bill to sweeten pensions for judges and district attorneys.

The bill would benefit Soles' longtime friend and ally, District Attorney Rex Gore, who lost to an opponent in the Democratic primary earlier this month, Joseph Neff reports on the Investigations blog.

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 2011, rather than waiting until he turns 65 in April of 2013.

Gore, who has about 22 years of service, said he discovered the loophole 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 pay and discovered this loophole.... When I did my own calculation I saw that I would lose 5 percent."

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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 elective officials' retirements is insane," said political activist Joe Sinsheimer. "I would hope there will be an ethics investigation."

Gore said he does not plan on retiring from government service when he leaves office. He said he wants to keep working, perhaps as a public defender or a teacher at a community college. In that case, he said, he would not collect his retirement early.

Soles did not return phone calls on Friday afternoon.


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Sen. Soles Help for Buddy

Did you know that a few years ago, Sen. Richard Stevens had a special bill passed by the General Assembly that resulted in a significant increase in his personal retirement pay? The bill allowed retirement credits for work he had done as a UNC Student many years early.

It's curious that Sen. Steven's recent bill had the effect of restricting access to pension information which would prevent the folks at retirement from discussing his personal account. However, if you check, there is a public record in the hopper of the special act by the Legislature that applied only to him.

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