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Geddes can boost taxpayer-backed pension 559 percent with new state job

Geddes can boost taxpayer-backed pension 559 percent with new state job

Dustin Hurst
May 21, 2015
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May 21, 2015
Former Senate Pro Tem Bob Geddes could boost his pension in a huge way in about 30 months.
Former Senate Pro Tem Bob Geddes could boost his pension in a huge way in about 30 months.

Former state Sen. Bob Geddes can use a new appointment to a state job to finish adding thousands of dollars a year to his taxpayer-funded pension.

By checking the right boxes, Geddes could spike his pension a staggering 559 percent.

Geddes will take the helm at the Department of Administration June 1, after Gov. Butch Otter announced the appointment Wednesday.

“Bob is a steady and trusted hand who knows his way around state government,” Otter said in a prepared statement. “He has faithfully and conscientiously served the people of Idaho for many years.”

While many see the appointment as Otter’s attempt to clean up a state agency under fire for mishandling a $60 million school technology contract, there’s more to the arrangement.

The new post allows Geddes to finish his pension spike, a process kicked off when Otter appointed the former senator to the Idaho State Tax Commission in 2011.

Part-time state lawmakers earn about $18,000 annually and contribute just more than 6 percent to their retirement funds. Even though taxpayers pitch in another 11 percent, legislative pensions amount to little, even following lengthy terms in office.

Idaho law allows part-time public officials to bump their taxpayer-backed pensions if former lawmakers take high-paying state jobs and remain in the posts for at least 42 months.

Geddes needs fewer months to boost his monthly retirement payout. He served 12 months at the tax commission at a salary much higher than $18,000. Records show he earned just more than $34,000 in the post in fiscal year 2011 and $66,558 in fiscal year 2012.

The former senator holds the power to continue stringing together months of high salaries. The agency’s former director earned $95,000 a year before resigning. It’s not clear how much taxpayers will pay Geddes for his service.

Geddes boasts about 203 months of work for Idaho, 191 of which he served in the Idaho Senate at the lower pay level.  Had the senator simply retired in February 2011 instead of accepting the tax job, he would have earned a modest $477 a month, or about $5,700 annually.

If Geddes stays in his new post for 30 months, his pension would balloon to just more than $3,000 a month, or approximately $37,000 a year.

That’s a $32,000 per year hike thanks to the loophole allowing part-time legislative service to count as full-time after lawmakers meet the 42-month threshold.

It’s a controversial practice with plenty of critics. Rep. Steven Harris, R-Meridian, pushed legislation to end the practice this year, but Senate Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, sidelined the measure after it cleared the Idaho House.

Hill sent the bill to the powerful Senate State Affairs Committee, where Chairman Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, refused to give the proposal a hearing.

Others stand to benefit from the practice. Otter appointed Sen. Elliott Werk, D-Boise, to the tax commission. Former speaker of the House Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, will also benefit after he finishes 42 months as secretary of state, a job he won in the 2014 elections.

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