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Blame the system for pension spiking, not partisan politics

Blame the system for pension spiking, not partisan politics

Dustin Hurst
October 8, 2014
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October 8, 2014

Pension spiking is hardly a partisan issue.

So can we stop treating it as such?

Instead, let’s view it in the correct light: Some officials are looking to get rich on the backs of taxpayers thanks to loopholes put in place by the Idaho Legislature and the government pension board.

The issue continually pops up as Rep. Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, runs for Idaho’s elections chief opposite Rep. Holli Woodings, D-Boise. If Denney wins in November and stays in office for 42 months, he’ll take his monthly pension payment from $400 a month to $3,600 a month.

Suddenly, news writers showed interest in the practice. Angry social media posts, too, flowed freely.

Of course, the deal is concerning for taxpayers.

What it’s not, though, is contained to just Denney. There are plenty of examples.

Just a couple months ago, Penni Cyr, president of Idaho’s teachers’ union, won re-election to her post, which guarantees her another three years in office. The victory also secures a healthy pension boost for Cyr.

Because the Idaho Legislature allows the teachers’ union to participate in the state pension system and Cyr makes $40,000 working more as president than she did as a teacher in Moscow, she’ll receive a nice boost in her taxpayer-funded pension.

It’s a formula we’ve seen work over and over. Consider Sherri Wood’s pension boost after she served as teachers’ union president: According to IdahoReporter.com’s calculations, Wood bumped her pension by about $40,000 a year.

Where were the angry tweets and Facebook posts then?

Answer: There weren’t any.

The teachers’ union isn’t the only offender.

Consider Gov. Butch Otter’s appointment of Debbie Field to a high-paying state job after she served as his campaign manager. Because Field served time in the Idaho Legislature, she had the opportunity to spike her pension.

Field resigned the post after 43 months, saying she needed to spend more time with family. Field added about $1,500 a month to her government pension.

Pension spiking takes 42 months, according to pension rules.

If political observers want to be angry about pension spiking, the anger must flow to a system that allows these suspect practices, not just directed at a partisan candidate for a high office.

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