The Texas House approved legislation Tuesday that would close the loophole former Gov. Rick Perry once used to begin collecting a lucrative pension without ever having to leave office.
The bill was amended to ensure that it does not exempt current state legislators or statewide elected officials, but that still wasn’t good enough for Rep. Phil Stephenson, R-Wharton, the lone no vote. He objected to an exemption for district attorneys, which stayed in the bill after the House voted down an amendment Monday to apply the double-dipping ban to them.
“Why are we carving these guys out?” Stephenson asked. “I’m not even for pensions for us. I’m one of those crazy people. I’m a citizen legislator.”
Stephenson said he was surprised to learn after getting elected in 2012 that lawmakers' pensions are tied to the $140,000-a-year salary of a state district judge, allowing legislators or statewide elected officials to retire at age 50 with a $38,640 annual pension, plus health care.
A 20-year veteran of the part-time Texas Legislature, where members make just $7,200 a year in fixed salary, can still retire with a $64,400 annual pension.
Perry didn't wait for his retirement to start collecting his pension. He used the current loophole to begin collecting an additional $92,000 a year, on top of his $150,000 salary as Texas governor. The bill closing down the loophole now heads to the Texas Senate.