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Senate protects pension perk for legislators

Senate protects pension perk for legislators

Dustin Hurst
February 15, 2017
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February 15, 2017

The Senate State Affairs Committee declined to introduce legislation Wednesday that could have ended pension spiking by Idaho’s part-time lawmakers.

The panel declined to introduce the measure, which was brought by Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian. The panel declined to make a motion to hear the measure, but then members turned back a last-ditch effort by Hagedorn to force introduction.

Committee members voted 5 to 4 against allowing further deliberations on the legislation.

This isn’t the first time that committee has played a key role to protect the pension perk. In 2015, the Idaho House passed legislation to end the scheme and the bill landed in the Senate State Affairs Committee. The panel chairman at that time, Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, refused to hear the measure.

The pension perk works as follows. Legislators serve long terms in the Capitol, while paying small sums into their retirement accounts from their part-time salaries. They then secure a gubernatorial appointment to a high-paying state job.

They stay in that post for at least 42 months. After that, all their part-time service in the Capitol counts as full-time under the high salary rate of the state job.

This simple re-definition skyrockets their annual pension, at the expense of Idaho taxpayers. Pension increases of 500 percent, 600 percent or more are common. Last year, this perk spiked a former legislator’s pension by more than 800 percent.

In the summer of 2016, the Citizens Committee on Legislative Compensation considered the issue, but recommended lawmakers handle the problem themselves.

At a press briefing earlier this year, Senate Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, suggested it’s “insulting” that some would allege that the pension perk plays into the governor’s deliberations when he is considering appointments.

Update: Senators who voted against introduction: Brent Hill, Bart Davis, Todd Lakey, Patti Anne Lodge and Chuck Winder. 


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