Heard The One About Scott Brown’s $60,000 State Pension?

What with all the snowfalls, not to mention the Super Bowl, you might have missed the news that Scott Brown has applied to the State Board of Retirement to begin collecting his state pension. As reported by the Globe, Fox 25 and other outlets (but not the Boston Herald, which is ordinarily vigilant on public pension matters), Brown filed his application shortly after his electoral loss in New Hampshire in November.

Here’s the squirelly part. The stories are estimating the amount of his pension to be $60,000. That’s wildly wrong on the high side. His pension will be closer to one-third of that number.

Fox 25 has helpfully shared Senator Brown’s pension application, and a handy guide on the State Board of Retirement website walks you through the math. The amount of our former Senator’s state pension will be the product of:

  • The number of years of service he is claiming (Brown is claiming 16.5 years)
  • Multiplied by an adjustment for his current age, (Brown is 55, the youngest age at which it is even possible for non-public safety workers to apply for pension benefits, so his age factor is .015)
  • Multiplied by the highest 36 consecutive month average rate of regular compensation (Brown made between $73,200 and $76,400 during that time, so let’s eyeball that number at $74,200).

So, (16.5) x (.015) x $74,200 = $18,364 per year, considerably less than $60,000, but maybe enough to pay the property taxes on the New Hampshire homestead. Glad that’s cleared up.

If, like me, you have a nagging suspicion that Senator Brown’s pension, even at the modest number of $18,364, nevertheless involves some advantageous calculations that are not available to many of the rest of us, a couple more points.

  • Senator Brown’s highest 36 months of compensation were his last three years in the State Senate, when he received an additional $15,000 (on top of the base legislator salary) for serving as Third Assistant Minority Leader. Since he was the least senior member of the minority party during that time, the $15,000 bonus he received was compensation for leading himself. Without that $15,000 bonus, his pension would be closer to $14,000.
  • Most of Senator Brown’s 16.5 years of service was time he spent not on the state payroll, but as a town assessor and then selectman in his home town of Wrentham, positions which were not full-time employment and for which he received little pay (a Globe article from last year reported that many towns pay their selectmen in the range of $3000 to $5000 per year). But for the existence of a law allowing such service to be counted toward state pension eligibility, the Senator would not have the 10 years of service required to collect a pension. As it is, he will be receiving more in pension benefits than a person who worked full-time for the state for the same number of years but whose highest 36 months of salary were less than Brown earned as his party’s Third Assistant Majority Leader.

(Cross-posted at Blue Mass Group, here)

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