Perry’s Pension Not a Problem in Iowa
Texas Governor Rick Perry continues to face criticism in his home state over the discovery that he started taking his state employee retirement in January, while he’s still being paid to be the Governor of Texas. But on the road to the GOP presidential primaries he’s not facing the same kind of criticism.
When the news hit Friday that Rick Perry added $90,000 to his yearly take home pay by collecting a state pension, Democrats were quick to condemn the move. They said that in January 2011, when Perry was telling lawmakers to start figuring out how to cut billions of dollars from the state budget and lay off thousands, the governor was essentially cutting himself a big pay raise.
On the road in Iowa, the governor railed about excessive Congressional salaries. But he seemed off-hand in his response to questions about what some called his double-dipping, drawing a pension and a state salary at the same time.
“ERS called me and said listen you’re eligible to access your retirement now with your military time and your time in service. And I would think it would be rather foolish to not access what you’ve earned,” Perry said.
Perry is one of a very few elected officials in Texas who make enough to take advantage of this kind of retirement benefit. Elected officials can choose to take an “elected” pension or a “state worker” pension. Perry opted for the latter. For state lawmakers, who make about $600 a month, it doesn’t make sense to opt for the state employee pension.
But Perry’s not unique. Lt. Governor Bob Bullock took a pension and a salary back in the 90’s. And state Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson says he’d do the same if he’s elected lieutenant governor in 2014.
For the Iowans who turn out for Perry’s events on his current campaign tour, such as Ray Goodenkauf, there’s not really a problem.
“If he’s earned it, he’s earned it I guess is the way I’d look at it you know. Most of us would probably do it if we earned it you know,” Goodenkauf said.
Even after three days of national press coverage on Perry’s retirement boost, none of the people at his whistle stops have even raised the question. One reason may be that it’s just not at the top of their list of concerns. Iowa caucus-voters want to hear about national job creation, immigration and the stalemate in Washington. Another reason: they’re used to having a governor pulling down two salaries.
“We basically have the same thing in the state of Iowa with our governor,” Garnavillo, Iowa resident Denny Hamann said, “Terry Branstad is retired from a community college. So he’s getting his retirement from there and also the Governor. So we’ve had the same thing here and I don’t think people really…it doesn’t really bother them.”
What does bother Iowa voters? Well, for the first time in several weeks, Gov. Perry was asked about the state law that allows the children of some illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at state colleges. The questioner plans on caucusing for Mitt Romney.