By Tiffany Stevens
The Idaho Freedom Foundation has long argued the Politician Pension Payoff is incredibly unfair because it allows part-time politicians to game the system and earn a fat, full-time pension.
But just how unfair is the arrangement? Let’s compare the pension payouts of part-time politicians to Idaho’s often-overworked teachers.
Former state Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, serves as the poster child for the Politician Pension Payoff. If Cameron works at least 42 months as the Department of Insurance director, a post he took last June, the former lawmaker could secure pension payouts worth more than $1 million.
That’s for 26 years of work. It sounds reasonable, until we consider 22.5 of those years were part-time service in the Legislature. If Cameron clears the 42-month threshold as DOI director, all of his part-time pension credit magically morphs into full-time service for pension calculations — at the high rate of pay the agency job offers.
Had Cameron retired last year rather than taking the director post, he would have earned about $164,000 in lifetime retirement payments.
Alternatively, an Idaho teacher who holds a bachelor’s degree and earns top pay — about $62,000 annually — would need to work 45 years to match Cameron’s payout.
That’s all full-time, or more than full-time in many cases. How many teachers work after-hours tutoring students or grading papers?
Considering a teacher spends most of her working hours on her feet mentoring the youth of Idaho, a difficult and demanding job to say the least, this huge inequity is incredibly disheartening.
When Cameron was a politician, he spent his time helping make the laws that dictate life in Idaho. He left this law in place allowing him to be valued, monetarily, much more than the teachers in Idaho and leaving the rest of taxpayers to foot the bill.
At a recent meeting of the Citizens Committee on Legislative Compensation, a six-member panel that determines legislator pay and benefits, former Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, argued lawmakers deserve to keep the scheme because legislative service is full-time work, even though the Legislature meets only about three months a year in Boise.
Besides the actuarial problems that argument ignores, I wonder how Idaho teachers, grading papers till midnight sometimes, feel knowing their full-time work means less than a politician’s part-time work.