There They Go Again...

The Boston Globe has done some wonderful reporting (yep, it's true) over the past few weeks on how members of the Massachusetts legislature use the state's pension system as their own personal cookie jar.
A decade ago the Lynn City Council took an obscure vote that allowed Linda Bassett to apply six years of unpaid library trustee service to her government pension. The benefit was extraordinary, and not just because it allowed Bassett to boost her pension by thousands of dollars for working as a community volunteer.
Imagine being able to add years of service to your pension by counting monthly meetings for your town's library board of trustees? Meetings for which you don't get paid, and meetings which you don't have to necessarily attend? How about getting credit for a full year of service for serving a day into the new year? Or being able to double your pension for losing a reelection bid? Or getting laid off from the MBTA after your required 23 years of service and collecting a nice pension while the T hires you back as a consultant?
It also made her the second half of a North Shore couple with extraordinary pension benefits. Linda Bassett and her husband have each won unusually generous retirement benefits using a combination of insider savvy, little-known provisions of law, and political connections.
These stories are very helpful for folks who sincerely seek to understand just how deep the government's disdain for the taxpayer runs.
The Globe last week detailed how Timothy A. Bassett, a 61-year-old former Democratic state representative and former Essex treasurer, benefited greatly from a special pension provision pushed by former House speaker Thomas M. Finneran, also a Democrat, and the Legislature. The carefully tailored provision, which did not mention Bassett by name, permitted him to collect his $41,000-a-year state pension even while working full time as the Essex Regional Retirement Board chairman and executive director, a job that currently pays him an estimated $123,000 a year.
Tom Finneran is my radio co-host. He says he has no recollection of having scribbled a note on his yellow pad commanding such a benefit be included in the budget.
"I have absolutely no memory of that," said Finneran, when shown a copy of the amendment. "But, wow, it's a lot of money. Not a bad outcome for Timmy Bassett. Not bad at all."
While it's not bad for Timmy, it's a crisis for the people of Massachusetts, and by extension, the elected officials who desperately wish to raise taxes this year, but fear fury at the polls (and rightly so) next year if they do.
His wife, Linda, 60, currently collects $26,000 a year in pension benefits, even while continuing to work part time as a cooking teacher at North Shore Community College in Danvers, a position that pays her nearly $20,000 a year. About $5,500 of her pension is the result of her six years of volunteer service as a Lynn library trustee. The Bassetts, who moved from Lynn to Marblehead in 1994, did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this story.
I am reminded by the former speaker on a regular basis what fine and capable servants most serving in the state government are.
Previously, Timothy Bassett released a statement: "I have spent my entire adult life in public service and hopefully I have done some good. My wife served as a dedicated teacher. We have never done anything inappropriate."
Forgive me for questioning the use of the word "service." For some reason, it makes me think of prostitution.