BOISE -- The Idaho Freedom Foundation on Tuesday launched a new website to expose and let the public track Politician Pension Payoffs, through which former state legislators use a special pension carve out to rake in big bucks in retirement. Some ex-politicians have used the state’s pension perk to convert a retirement benefit worth a few thousand dollars a year into one worth more than many Idaho families make all year. Former Sen. Dean Cameron, one of the latest beneficiaries of the pension payout, started his new state job Monday.
“This arrangement exemplifies the worst of political elitism,” said Idaho Freedom Foundation President Wayne Hoffman. “Idaho lawmakers have created a special perk that benefits only them. They breathlessly defend it, just so that they can secure a posh retirement paid for by Idaho’s working families. It’s cold and indefensible, and it truly is a politician pension payoff.”
To get the politician pension payoff, a legislator must serve a long tenure in the Idaho Capitol, all the while accruing credit in Idaho’s retirement program. The longer the tenure, the more potentially lucrative the benefit. Then, the legislator must win favor with the right people and take an appointment to a high-paying state job. After working 42 months, as state retirement rules require, the former lawmaker’s pension jumps by staggering amounts. For example, if Cameron serves 42 months as Department of Insurance director, he could boost his pension payout by more than 500 percent. Had Cameron retired from the Legislature this year, he would have earned $8,500 in pension payments annually. If he serves 42 months in the post, payments jump to $55,000 a year
The Idaho House passed legislation earlier this year to address the problem, but the Senate never took up the legislation.
“This isn’t about Dean Cameron or what he did or didn’t do as a state senator or as chairman of the Legislature’s budget committee. This is about the existence of a special political payout that exists in state law and shouldn’t,” Hoffman said. “So far this year, four former state senators have entered an exclusive club within the state bureaucracy that leads to poshest of pensions: A pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, sponsored and defended by the Idaho Legislature and funded by Idaho taxpayers.”