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Ronnie White's retirement date assures boosted pension

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Ronnie White

By AP/KWMU

Jefferson City, MO – Ronnie White's decision to retire from the Missouri Supreme Court on July 6 will mean $5,000 more dollars in his pension check.

That date is five days after a pay raise kicks in; judges get half their salary in retirement.

Western District Court of Appeals Judge Edwin Smith is also planning to step down on the same date.

By waiting a few extra days to retire, White will receive an additional $5,021.50 annually and Smith an extra $4,736.50 annually in pension payments, according to figures calculated Monday by The Associated Press.

Under Missouri's retirement law, judges receive a pension equal to half the salary at the time of their retirement for the highest position they held.

That means White, who served as chief justice from July 2003 through June 2005, will get a pension based on the salary of the chief justice, which will rise July 1 from the current $125,500 annually to $135,543 annually, according to the state Office of Budget and Planning.

Smith's pension will be based on the standard salary for an appeals court judge, which will rise from the current $115,000 to $124,473, according to the budget office.

Judges and other elected state officials have gone several years without pay raises. But in November, voters approved a constitutional amendment making it harder for the Legislature to reject the raises recommended by a citizens commission. The resulting pay raises kick in July 1, the start of Missouri's next fiscal year.

White, 54, declined to comment about his retirement date or pension.

Smith said he could have started drawing a pension when he turned 55 in December. But he said he remained on the job to wrap up his docket of cases before leaving to become a partner at the Shughart Thomson and Kilroy law firm. When it came time to pick an exact departure date, Smith acknowledged he decided to stay just a little bit longer to get the extra pension.

"It really wasn't the biggest factor for me increasing my pension it was more of an afterthought," Smith said, but "I might as well stay and get my extra pension."

Even so, Smith said the pension boost pales in comparison with the extra half-year of money he could have earned had he retired in December and immediately entered the private sector.

Smith said other appellate judges also are considering retiring in the next year or so.

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