How Lawmakers' Pensions Would Grow Under Budget

Bidness as Usual


This is one in a series of occasional stories about ethics and transparency in the part-time Texas Legislature.

On top of their civic responsibility, every member of the Legislature will have a personal stake in the state budget.

As it stands, the proposed budget includes a 12 percent increase in the base salaries for state district judges. That number — currently $125,000 annually — also happens to be the basis for legislative pensions. An increase in the pay for judges is an increase in the annual pension benefits for members.

The budget would raise the pay for judges to $140,000, an increase that would mean a minimum of $2,760 per year for legislators qualified to retire. Lawmakers' regular annual pay is $7,200, plus a per diem to pay for travel, food and lodging when they're on state business. To qualify for retirement, a legislator needs at least eight years in office. With that, a former lawmaker could begin collecting annual benefits at age 60. With 12 years in state office, that former lawmaker could start drawing retirement at age 50.

The spreadsheet below shows the tenure of every current lawmaker at the end of 2014, rounded to the nearest year; the estimated amount of their base retirement at that time; the amount it would increase with the current budget proposal; and the resulting annual total pension benefit. Actual benefits vary depending on choices lawmakers make in their plans (they can opt out, though few do so), on other pensions, and non-legislative government service and so on. Many members — 85 of the 181 in the House and Senate — won’t qualify for pensions at that point. The rest would be eligible for annual pensions of $27,760 to $140,000. One legislator, Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, would be subject to a cap of $140,000, since the benefit can't exceed the amount of the judicial salary it's based on. One last thing: The changes don’t just affect current members. Lawmakers who have already retired would get the increases in pension payments, too. The retired elected officials class currently includes 513 former legislators, district attorneys and others, as well as 137 survivor beneficiaries, each of whom collects an average of $44,196 in annual benefits.

Legislator Pension Benefits in Proposed Budget
Source: Legislative Reference Library, Texas Tribune research
DistrictFirst nameLast namePartyChamberTenureEstimated base pensionProposed increaseTotal
82 Tom Craddick R H 46 $132,250* $15,870 $148,120*
15 John Whitmire D S 42 $120,750 $14,490 $135,240
141 Senfronia Thompson D H 42 $120,750 $14,490 $135,240
142 Harold Dutton Jr. D H 30 $86,250 $10,350 $96,600
37 René Oliveira D H 30 $86,250 $10,350 $96,600
86 John Smithee R H 30 $86,250 $10,350 $96,600
20 Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa D S 28 $80,500 $9,660 $90,160
27 Eddie Lucio D S 28 $80,500 $9,660 $90,160
21 Judith Zaffirini D S 28 $80,500 $9,660 $90,160
53 Harvey Hilderbran R H 26 $74,750 $8,970 $83,720
139 Sylvester Turner D H 26 $74,750 $8,970 $83,720
13 Rodney Ellis D S 25 $71,875 $8,625 $80,500
16 John Carona R S 24 $69,000 $8,280 $77,280
26 Leticia Van de Putte D S 24 $69,000 $8,280 $77,280
147 Garnet Coleman D H 24 $69,000 $8,280 $77,280
49 Elliott Naishtat D H 24 $69,000 $8,280 $77,280
24 Troy Fraser R S 23 $66,125 $7,935 $74,060
12 Jane Nelson R S 22 $63,250 $7,590 $70,840
23 Royce West D S 22 $63,250 $7,590 $70,840
111 Yvonne Davis D H 22 $63,250 $7,590 $70,840
109 Helen Giddings D H 22 $63,250 $7,590 $70,840
10 Jim Pitts R H 22 $63,250 $7,590 $70,840
46 Dawnna Dukes D H 20 $57,500 $6,900 $64,400
23 Craig Eiland D H 20 $57,500 $6,900 $64,400
135 Gary W. Elkins R H 20 $57,500 $6,900 $64,400
148 Jessica Cristina Farrar D H 20 $57,500 $6,900 $64,400
79 Joe Pickett D H 20 $57,500 $6,900 $64,400
42 Richard Peňa Raymond D H 20 $57,500 $6,900 $64,400
28 Robert Duncan R S 19 $54,625 $6,555 $61,180
120 Ruth Jones McClendon D H 19 $54,625 $6,555 $61,180
19 Carlos Uresti D S 18 $51,750 $6,210 $57,960
4 Tommy Williams R S 18 $51,750 $6,210 $57,960
25 Dennis Bonnen R H 18 $51,750 $6,210 $57,960
90 Lon Burnam D H 18 $51,750 $6,210 $57,960
60 James "Jim" Keffer R H 18 $51,750 $6,210 $57,960
80 Tracy King D H 18 $51,750 $6,210 $57,960
104 Roberto Alonzo D H 16 $46,000 $5,520 $51,520
129 John E. Davis R H 16 $46,000 $5,520 $51,520
22 Joe Deshotel D H 16 $46,000 $5,520 $51,520
61 Phil King R H 16 $46,000 $5,520 $51,520
30 Geanie W. Morrison R H 16 $46,000 $5,520 $51,520
21 Allan Ritter R H 16 $46,000 $5,520 $51,520
64 Myra Crownover R H 15 $43,125 $5,175 $48,300
123 Mike Villarreal D H 15 $43,125 $5,175 $48,300
30 Craig Estes R S 14 $40,250 $4,830 $45,080
132 Bill Callegari R H 14 $40,250 $4,830 $45,080
99 Charlie Geren R H 14 $40,250 $4,830 $45,080
32 Todd Hunter R H 14 $40,250 $4,830 $45,080
13 Lois Kolkhorst R H 14 $40,250 $4,830 $45,080
116 Trey Martinez Fischer D H 14 $40,250 $4,830 $45,080
124 José Menéndez D H 14 $40,250 $4,830 $45,080
150 Debbie Riddle R H 13 $37,375 $4,485 $41,860
2 Bob Deuell R S 12 $34,500 $4,140 $38,640
18 Glenn Hegar R S 12 $34,500 $4,140 $38,640
8 Ken Paxton R S 12 $34,500 $4,140 $38,640
11 Larry Taylor R S 12 $34,500 $4,140 $38,640
138 Dwayne Bohac R H 12 $34,500 $4,140 $38,640
108 Dan Branch R H 12 $34,500 $4,140 $38,640
8 Byron Cook R H 12 $34,500 $4,140 $38,640
2 Dan Flynn R H 12 $34,500 $4,140 $38,640
31 Ryan Guillen D H 12 $34,500 $4,140 $38,640
105 Linda Harper-Brown R H 12 $34,500 $4,140 $38,640
5 Bryan Hughes R H 12 $34,500 $4,140 $38,640
89 Jodie Laubenberg R H 12 $34,500 $4,140 $38,640
62 Larry Phillips R H 12 $34,500 $4,140 $38,640
51 Eddie Rodriguez D H 12 $34,500 $4,140 $38,640
128 Wayne Smith R H 12 $34,500 $4,140 $38,640
1 Kevin Eltife R S 11 $31,625 $3,795 $35,420
31 Kel Seliger R S 11 $31,625 $3,795 $35,420
131 Alma A. Allen D H 10 $28,750 $3,450 $32,200
103 Rafael Anchia D H 10 $28,750 $3,450 $32,200
56 Charles "Doc" Anderson R H 10 $28,750 $3,450 $32,200
143 Ana Hernandez Luna D H 10 $28,750 $3,450 $32,200
39 Armando "Mando" Martinez D H 10 $28,750 $3,450 $32,200
58 Rob Orr R H 10 $28,750 $3,450 $32,200
18 John Otto R H 10 $28,750 $3,450 $32,200
50 Mark Strama D H 10 $28,750 $3,450 $32,200
121 Joe Straus R H 10 $28,750 $3,450 $32,200
149 Hubert Vo D H 10 $28,750 $3,450 $32,200
96 Bill Zedler R H 10 $28,750 $3,450 $32,200
48 Donna Howard D H 9 $25,875 $3,105 $28,980
9 Kelly Hancock R S 8 $23,000 $2,760 $25,760
3 Robert Nichols R S 8 $23,000 $2,760 $25,760
7 Dan Patrick R S 8 $23,000 $2,760 $25,760
14 Kirk Watson D S 8 $23,000 $2,760 $25,760
54 Jimmie Don Aycock R H 8 $23,000 $2,760 $25,760
16 Brandon Creighton R H 8 $23,000 $2,760 $25,760
72 Drew Darby R H 8 $23,000 $2,760 $25,760
118 Joe Farias D H 8 $23,000 $2,760 $25,760
126 Patricia Harless R H 8 $23,000 $2,760 $25,760
34 Abel Herrero D H 8 $23,000 $2,760 $25,760
71 Susan King R H 8 $23,000 $2,760 $25,760
38 Eddie Lucio III D H 8 $23,000 $2,760 $25,760
63 Tan Parker R H 8 $23,000 $2,760 $25,760
94 Diane Patrick R H 8 $23,000 $2,760 $25,760
28 John Zerwas R H 8 $23,000 $2,760 $25,760
17 Joan Huffman R S 7 $0 $0 $0
119 Roland Gutierrez D H 7 $0 $0 $0
81 Tryon Lewis R H 7 $0 $0 $0
55 Ralph Sheffield R H 7 $0 $0 $0
10 Wendy Davis D S 6 $0 $0 $0
145 Carol Alvarado D H 6 $0 $0 $0
112 Angie Chen Button R H 6 $0 $0 $0
130 Allen Fletcher R H 6 $0 $0 $0
17 Tim Kleinschmidt R H 6 $0 $0 $0
77 Marisa Marquez D H 6 $0 $0 $0
146 Borris L. Miles D H 6 $0 $0 $0
73 Doug Miller R H 6 $0 $0 $0
133 Jim Murphy R H 6 $0 $0 $0
140 Armando Walle D H 6 $0 $0 $0
22 Brian Birdwell R S 5 $0 $0 $0
84 John Frullo R H 5 $0 $0 $0
100 Eric Johnson D H 5 $0 $0 $0
44 John Kuempel R H 5 $0 $0 $0
66 Van Taylor R H 5 $0 $0 $0
29 Jose Rodriguez D S 4 $0 $0 $0
5 Charles Schwertner R S 4 $0 $0 $0
113 Cindy Burkett R H 4 $0 $0 $0
102 Stefani Carter R H 4 $0 $0 $0
134 Sarah Davis R H 4 $0 $0 $0
52 Larry Gonzales R H 4 $0 $0 $0
76 Naomi R. Gonzalez D H 4 $0 $0 $0
4 Lance Gooden R H 4 $0 $0 $0
127 Dan Huberty R H 4 $0 $0 $0
45 Jason A. Isaac R H 4 $0 $0 $0
122 Lyle Larson R H 4 $0 $0 $0
1 George Lavender R H 4 $0 $0 $0
43 Jose Manuel Lozano R H 4 $0 $0 $0
78 Joseph "Joe" Moody D H 4 $0 $0 $0
36 Sergio Muñoz Jr. D H 4 $0 $0 $0
83 Charles Perry R H 4 $0 $0 $0
87 Walter T. "Four" Price R H 4 $0 $0 $0
14 John Raney R H 3 $0 $0 $0
27 Ron Reynolds D H 4 $0 $0 $0
107 Kenneth Sheets R H 4 $0 $0 $0
7 David Simpson R H 4 $0 $0 $0
101 Chris Turner D H 4 $0 $0 $0
19 James White R H 4 $0 $0 $0
47 Paul Workman R H 4 $0 $0 $0
41 Robert "Bobby" Guerra D H 3 $0 $0 $0
25 Donna Campbell R S 2 $0 $0 $0
6 Sylvia Garcia D S 2 $0 $0 $0
57 Trent Ashby R H 2 $0 $0 $0
3 Cecil Bell Jr. R H 2 $0 $0 $0
24 Greg Bonnen R H 2 $0 $0 $0
40 Terry Canales D H 2 $0 $0 $0
98 Giovanni Capriglione R H 2 $0 $0 $0
11 Travis Clardy R H 2 $0 $0 $0
95 Nicole Collier D H 2 $0 $0 $0
117 Philip Cortez D H 2 $0 $0 $0
136 Tony Dale R H 2 $0 $0 $0
106 Pat Fallon R H 2 $0 $0 $0
20 Marsha Farney R H 2 $0 $0 $0
69 James Frank R H 2 $0 $0 $0
97 Craig Goldman R H 2 $0 $0 $0
75 Mary González D H 2 $0 $0 $0
12 Kyle Kacal R H 2 $0 $0 $0
88 Ken King R H 2 $0 $0 $0
91 Stephanie Klick R H 2 $0 $0 $0
93 Matt Krause R H 2 $0 $0 $0
67 Jeff Leach R H 2 $0 $0 $0
35 Oscar Longoria D H 2 $0 $0 $0
26 Rick Miller R H 2 $0 $0 $0
74 Alfonso "Poncho" Nevárez D H 2 $0 $0 $0
9 Christopher "Chris" Paddie R H 2 $0 $0 $0
144 Mary Ann Perez D H 2 $0 $0 $0
115 Bennett Ratliff R H 2 $0 $0 $0
125 Justin Rodriguez D H 2 $0 $0 $0
110 Toni Rose D H 2 $0 $0 $0
70 Scott Sanford R H 2 $0 $0 $0
6 Matt Schaefer R H 2 $0 $0 $0
59 J.D. Sheffield R H 2 $0 $0 $0
65 Ron Simmons R H 2 $0 $0 $0
68 Drew Springer R H 2 $0 $0 $0
85 Phil Stephenson R H 2 $0 $0 $0
92 Jonathan Stickland R H 2 $0 $0 $0
29 Ed Thompson R H 2 $0 $0 $0
15 Steve Toth R H 2 $0 $0 $0
33 Scott Turner R H 2 $0 $0 $0
114 Jason Villalba R H 2 $0 $0 $0
137 Gene Wu D H 2 $0 $0 $0

* The retirement benefit cannot exceed the salary of a state judge; the most a legislative retiree could collect now would be $125,000; the most under the proposed increase would be $140,000.

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