Former Idaho lawmakers abuse the state’s pension system, using a special carve-out created by the Legislature to boost their taxpayer-funded retirement payouts.
The Idaho Freedom Foundation launched Thursday the Politician Pension Payoff campaign to highlight policies that allowed Sen. Joe Stegner, a Republican of Lewiston, to boost his pension more than 800 percent.
“This arrangement reveals the worst of politics,” said Idaho Freedom Foundation President Wayne Hoffman. “Politicians unfairly use the system to secure posh retirement benefits on the backs of Idaho’s working families.”
To qualify, legislators serve long tenures in the Idaho Capitol, all the while accruing credit in Idaho’s retirement program. Then, they win favor with the right people and take appointments to high-paying state jobs. After working 42 months, as state retirement rules require, former lawmakers’ pensions jump by staggering amounts.
If Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, 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.
“This violates Idahoans’ sense of fairness,” Hoffman said. “Idahoans believe hard work brings success. Political shortcuts enjoyed by the elite aren’t in line with Idahoans’ values.”
The Idaho House passed legislation earlier this year to address the problem, but Senate Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, redirected the bill to a favored committee, where it never received a hearing. Hill never explained why he sent the bill to the panel.
“This is a huge and misunderstood problem,” Hoffman said. “Far from being a partisan issue, Idahoans of all political stripes agree the Legislature must fix this.”