The B&G Report
By Katherine Barrett & Richard Greene
December 17, 2008
Neither of us has ever worked in the Texas legislature. But we sure wouldn't mind retiring from there. Let us explain.
A couple of weeks ago, we spoke at the Council of State Governments annual meeting. At one point, we idly commented that we couldn't imagine anyone continuing in the state legislature in order to build up a pension. After our talk, Texas state Senator Jeff Wentworth gently explained that while this may be true in other places, it ignored the facts of life in the Lone Star State.
His explanation took our breath away.
It turns out that, like most government workers, Texas legislators contribute a percentage of their annual salary to their pension. But while their salaries are a meager $7,200 a year, the salary that's used in calculating their pensions is that of a state district court judge: $125,000. As with most public pensions, you have to stay on the job a number of years to qualify ó eight years to retire at age 60 or 12 years to retire at age 50. The longer you stay, the bigger the benefit. One article, published a few years ago in the Oklahoma City Journal Record, noted that one Texas legislator who never made more than $7,200 annually as a legislator retired after 39 years of service with an annual pension of $92,704. Not bad for a session that lasts 140 days every other year.