"So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain;
It takes away the life of its owners."
Yesterday, Dawnna Dukes announced her intention to retire from the legislature...in four months; what gives?!?
Consider this number: $3220.
That's the increase in annual pension Dukes will receive, for life, by retiring with 22 years of 'service time' instead of 21.
One perk Texas Legislators receive (that they don't like to talk about) is access to the state's "judicial retirement" system. It's a form of kabuki theater that allows legislators to vote to increase their own pension without telling voters that's what they're doing. That's why, every session, there's always some hack who pushes bills and budget amendments to increase pensions "for our hardworking judges."
As toughnickel explains:
The short sessions that take place every other year should be remembered when considering that state legislators have linked their pensions to the salaries of state district judges who work every year for a lot more than a 140 days in most cases. By linking their pensions to the state judge’s salaries, legislators receive a raise in their pension benefits every time judges receive a salary increase (Odessa American).And yes, it's completely legal.
Consider the following from the state retirement system:
As it relates to legislators, they get 2.3% of a state district judges' salary (currently $140k) for every year of 'service time' they accrue in the legislature. They vest at year 8, which translates to 18.4% and goes up from there. Not coincidentally, this is why so many legislators have a strange habit of running for something else after their fourth session in the legislature (lookin' at you Allen Fletcher).
In Dukes' specific case, here's the math:
Retire with 21 years:
- 2.3% x 21 = 48.3%
- .483 x 140k = 67,620
- Therefore, Dukes would receive $67,620 (*) for life.
Retire with 22 years:
- 2.3% x 22 = 50.6%
- .506 x 140k = 70,840
- $70,840 (*) for life.
* -- Assuming, for the sake of discussion, that a future legislature doesn't increase the payout (which, of course, they will the second they think they can get away with it).
Don'cha love politicians?!?
Don'cha love politicians?!?
[Sidenote: While we're on the subject, we'll make also predict cycically that Dukes will cash in with the lobby about ten seconds after she officially 'retires.']
That being said, the good news is that Dukes has an opponent in November. We've known Gabriel Nila for years and have been impressed by his diligence in the district for awhile (though, we confess, we didn't think he had a snowball's chance prior to yesterday's announcement). Learn more about Gabriel here, donate here.
Based on what we're hearing, it sounds like former Austin City Council member Sheryl Cole would be the prohibitive favorite if there's a special election early next year; that she was a member of the old, pre 10-1, council speaks for itself.
Bottom Line: Whatever your thoughts on the long-term future of the district, the only way to stop Dawnna Dukes from acquiring another $3220 (+) of taxpayer money every year for life is to elect Gabriel Nila in November.