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TX: Lawmakers target double dipping by elected officials

By   /   January 10, 2013  /   No Comments

By Mark Lisheron | Texas Watchdog

Texas state Rep. Chris Turner

DOUBLE DIP: Elected officials would be barred from taking a state pension while accepting a state salary under a bill by Texas state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie.

AUSTIN — Opening week of a new session of the Texas Legislature, vacant as it is of much substance, is the perfect time to send up flares for bills lawmakers hope won’t be talked about come May.

Take House Bill 413, a rather short and direct piece of lawmaking that would prohibit elected officials eligible for a state pension to collect it while drawing a state salary.

Those officials would not include Gov. Rick Perry and several others whose identities and pensions are kept confidential by a law passed by the legislative bodies to which they belong.

Late in 2011, at the time he was required by federal law to declare he was collecting a pension of more than $90,000 in addition to his $150,000 a year governor’s salary, Perry told the Texas Tribune, “I think you would be rather foolish to not access what you’ve earned.”

Having been stung by the governor’s disclosure, state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, filed a corrective in HB 413, the Tribune reports.  The bill, however, is carefully written so as not to cut off the governor or any of the anonymous elected officials currently double dipping.

“I just couldn’t believe it, and I think most Texans can’t believe elected officials can collect a salary, retire and still stay on the job and collect a pension all at the same time,” Turner told the Tribune.

Given current law, the public will never know how many elected officials might be stopped by HB 413, assuming the Legislature has the will to deny itself the pensions a past Legislature once determined it had so justly earned.

Such an unusual display of courage might serve as an example to Congress, where a dozen or so Texas representatives are drawing federal pensions on top of their salaries.

Or the more than 6,200 state employees who draw salaries and pensions, 189 of them, including Perry, do so while earning annual salaries of $100,000 or more.

Not to mention the nearly 200 employees of the Fort Worth Independent School District and who knows how many other employees in how many other school districts across Texas.

Contact Mark Lisheron at mark@texaswatchdog.org or 512-299-2318 or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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