Now that former Gov. Rick Perry has left office, a bill to eliminate the perk that allowed him to reap both his pension and his salary at once is picking up steam in the Texas Legislature.
Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, laid out his bill to ban the controversial practice — called double-dipping — in the House Pensions Committee on Monday. That gives House Bill 408 plenty of time to reach the floor and potentially make it into state law. Two years ago the bill died in committee late in the legislative session.
“This is a commonsense bill that has growing bipartisan support in the House and I’m optimistic the Committee on Pensions will give it favorable consideration and vote it out in the near future,” Turner said after the bill was discussed Monday.
Turner said his staff gathered research on retirement perks for elected officials in all 50 states and could find none that allowed politicians to collect a pension without actually leaving their jobs.
The Texas Conservative Coalition, a group of conservative Texas lawmakers, backed the bill Monday, and Perry’s successor, Gov. Greg Abbott, has already said he supports doing away with the unusual benefit. Members from both parties have signed on to Turner's bill, among them Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton, chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee.
A “very small group” of people would lose their ability to double-dip if the bill becomes law, according to a fiscal analysis of the legislation.
Only elected officials with many years of government service qualify for the perk, but legislative retirement information remains secret and lawmakers don’t have to reveal pension payments on their state financial disclosure forms, so there’s no way to know for sure how many qualify.
Former Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, a Democrat who died in 1999, used a version of the loophole to collect a state pension while serving as lieutenant governor, a post that pays only $7,200 a year in salary.
Former Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, a Republican, had said he planned to use it to double dip if he ascended to the lieutenant governor's office, but he lost in the 2014 GOP primary for that post and never got the chance.
Voters only learned about Perry’s pension arrangement after he was required to list the payments on his federal disclosure forms while he was running for president in 2011. At the time, Perry was making a $150,000 annual salary as governor and $92,000 a year in pension benefits.
“Around the Capitol we all frequently tout Texas as the national example of fiscal responsibility,” Turner said. “House Bill 408 helps us make our case of fiscal responsibility more credible by barring elected officials from being paid twice by the taxpayers for doing one job.”
The bill would take effect in September and would not impact Perry's pension.