Four Folks Walk Into Public Service . . .

This is really simple. And it’s outrageous. It’s probably going to happen, but not without my registering my disgust.

Gov. Rick Perry is the highest paid governor in the nation. He not only pulls his state paycheck, but, since he’s been a politician for so long, he pulls his state retirement as well. This is known as double-dipping.

Texas legislators? Oh, they’ve got it good. Their retirement is tied to the pay of state judges. Thus, they can get away with increasing their retirement benefits (and cutting everyone elses’) by hiding under the cover of retaining well-qualified judges.

Judges currently make $125,000, so a retired lawmaker with 20 years of service would get $57,500  in annual retirement.

Texas legislators think teachers should have to work longer and contribute more to their retirement accounts before being allowed to retire. Currently, teachers can retire if the number of years they’d worked in addition to their age equaled 80 (# years of state service + age = 80 = you can retire). Under the proposed rule our (well-compensated in retirement) legislators would require new teachers work at least until 62 before claiming any retirement benefits. Should legislators have to wait longer? Nah.

To qualify for a pension, legislators have to be in office for at least eight years, and if they serve for at least 12 years, they can begin collecting their pensions at age 50 instead of waiting until age 60. Increases in pay for judges affect not only future retirees but also current ones. It is probably worth pointing out that some of those current retirees are lobbyists, hanging around the Capitol, where it would not be entirely out of line to mention support for those hard-working jurists.

So, Gov. Perry earns a state salary and draws a state pension, state legislators only have to be reelected a few times before they get a hefty pension (along with opportunities to increase it both while elected and as a lobbyist) starting at 60 (and as early as 50!) and teachers get the shaft.

And the Texas Legislature hides behind judges. So let’s look at the judges for a moment. Do they really need an increase in pay above what they already make? Are they really raring to get back to the private sector? Are judgeships not going filled because no one is running for office because of the low pay? No. So why do they need pay raises?

Other state workers haven’t had pay raises in years, and judges suddenly deserve an over-20 percent raise? That’s ludicrous. Show me where there are no judges because they would prefer to be in private practice and I’ll show you a barrel-full of high-powered attorneys who aren’t interested in seeking more power. I also have some waterfront property in Rwanda I think you’ll be interested in.

I’m betting legislators wouldn’t be nearly as interested in judges’ salaries if their own retirement wasn’t tied to them. Maybe legislators need to draw a regular retirement after years more of service out of the very same fund as our under-served, far-more-sacrificing teachers. Then we’ll see whose salary is important.

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