Bill That Would End “Double Dipping” Gets Hearing

txtribuneThe Texas Tribune | April 23, 2013

When state Rep. Chris Turner started looking for other states that allow their politicians to retire without leaving their jobs, he could only find one: Texas.

At a public hearing Monday evening on his bill to end the practice, the Grand Prairie Democrat said the lucrative benefit — which got widespread attention when Gov. Rick Perry revealed that he was both collecting his salary and a pension from the state — flies in the face of the oft-repeated brag that Texas stands out as a beacon of budgetary restraint.

“At this Capitol we frequently tout Texas as a national example for fiscal responsibility,” said Turner, who has filed House Bill 413, which would ban “double dipping.” “This legislation helps us make that case more credibly, I think, by barring elected officials from being paid twice by our state taxpayers for one job.”

The bill was left pending in the House Pensions Committee.

Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said that if both the House and Senate pass the bill and send it to the governor, it would get full consideration.

“The governor will review any bill that makes it through the process and into his desk,” Nashed said.

Perry began drawing a $92,000-a-year pension in early 2011 by taking advantage of an obscure law that allows long-serving members of the state “elected class” — and that includes the longest-serving governor in Texas history — to start drawing a pension without leaving office.

News of the double-dipping came toward the end of Perry’s failed run for president, when he handed in federal disclosure forms that require candidates to reveal any pension income they have. Such disclosures aren’t required under state law.

Turner said he was inspired to file HB 413 after learning of Perry’s early pension draw, but his bill would not cut off the governor’s pension. It would only apply to future state officeholders. Nor would it apply to nonelected retirees, including teachers or state employees, who are elected to state office, he said.

In compiling research for the legislation, Turner asked the National Conference of State Legislatures to identify states that allow the type of double-dipping Perry is doing. The group told him Texas was the only state the NCSL could find.

The organization said that more than a dozen states specifically prohibit their elected officials from receiving a pension annuity unless they actually leave office and retire, Turner told the House Pensions Committee on Monday.