Hartgen, Wood bend reality to defend Politician Pension Payoffs

Wayne Hoffman Articles

Clever lawmakers.

You have to give them points for creativity in the latest ploy to defend the Politician Pension Payoff. The new claim is that the Idaho Freedom Foundation is attacking any pension increase earned by general state government employees. It’s patently false. Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, made that argument last Friday at a GOP meeting, according to the Twin Falls Times-News. And Rep. Stephen Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, has similarly courted readers with that type of logic on his Facebook page. The newspaper reported that Wood said “that state legislators, even though they are counted as part-time employees, actually do work full-time, and that other full-time employees who move on to a department head job would see a similar pension bump to the one legislators get.”

Let me explain the math on that. State lawmakers make around $16,500 a year. If Idaho lawmakers really are full time employees, they earn the rough equivalent of $7.93 an hour. There are a number of low-skill jobs in state government that earn similarly. Entry-level agency clerical workers, for example, are likely to earn what state lawmakers earn in a year. So, yes, theoretically, an office administrator for an agency could spend 20 years in that entry-level position and then be named the director of the Department of Environmental Quality. And, yes, if that were to occur, that employee would see their annual pension increase six or sevenfold, just like state lawmakers who land an agency appointment.

However, in case you had any doubt, that’s not happening, hasn’t happened and very likely won’t happen. The only place where an entry-level line worker is rocketed into management like that is McDonalds. And even then, fast food isn’t paying managers six figures the way state agencies are.  Additionally, let’s get real here: State lawmakers are not full time employees. Serving in the Legislature is not a full time job. Idaho doesn’t have full time legislative politicians like some states do. It is a citizen Legislature.

Idahoans need to seriously ask themselves: Are legislators really trying to protect the poor state employee who leapfrogs from obscurity into agency directorships? Or are they trying to protect themselves and their special system of politician payoffs?