Star Telegram: “Double dipping” bill worthy of consideration

January 14, 2013 |

Last week, I filed my first bill of the session, HB 413, which will ban the “double-dipping” of a state pension and salary at the same time by elected officials. You may remember this issue from Governor Perry’s run for President when it was revealed that the governor has “retired” from state service in order to begin collecting a state pension – even though he was still on the job and collecting his regular salary.

It’s important to note that Governor Perry is almost certainly not the only elected official who is taking advantage of this loophole; he just happens to be the one we know about due to financial disclosures associated with his presidential campaign.

During the past few days, our legislation has received a good amount of media attention across the state, including this Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial on Saturday:

fwst_r

Editorial

January 11, 2013

‘Double-dipping’ bill worthy of lawmakers’ careful consideration

Had Gov. Rick Perry not run for president, Texans might never have known that he had “retired” and was already collecting his pension, a practice permitted by a 1991 law that apparently few people — including present and past lawmakers — fully understood.

The pension records of Texas politicians are private, so unless someone discloses that he or she is receiving the monthly benefits, there is no way the public will know which officials are “double-dipping,” drawing a pension while also drawing a state salary.

As a presidential candidate, Perry had to file income statements with the Federal Election Commission, revealing that he is receiving more than $90,000 a year in pension payments in addition to his $150,000 annual pay as governor.

That revelation shocked many people around the state, as did news reported by the Texas Tribune earlier this year that the governor was “in an elite group of 189 employees who make at least $100,000 annually while drawing a state pension, according to figures provided by the state comptroller.”

 That practice will be stopped if State Rep. Chris Turner gets his way. On Wednesday Turner, D-Grand Prairie, filed House Bill 413, which would prevent “elected officials from collecting a salary and state pension at the same time, if their retirement payments are a result of their service as an elected official,” his office said in a new release.

Turner said his legislation, which would not be retroactive, is designed to ensure that if politicians “retire” to collect a pension they should truly retire and not collect a salary.

Otherwise, it is unfair for taxpayers to pay them twice.

The sponsor of the bill to revise the pension plan more than 20 years ago, former Democratic Sen. Bob Glasgow of Stephenville, did not realize the special double-dipping perk was in it, the Tribune reported, noting that the late Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock used the provision to supplement his income through the pension plan.

 It is a bad practice that legislators this session should correct, and Turner’s bill provides a vehicle for doing that.

This bill has also been covered in recent days by the Texas Tribune, the Dallas Morning News, KEYE-TV and KLIF-AM.

To keep the momentum going on this legislation, I need your help. Please forward this email to your contacts, share these stories on your Facebook page and tweet them out to your friends and family.

With your help, we can put an end to the double-dipping loophole this session.

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