State Pensions – A Loophole for Lobbyists

In many places you can get a state government pension without even working for the state government.

The Associated Press reports that lobbyists in at least 20 states are entitled to public pensions because they represent associations of counties, cities and school boards. In many cases, they also get state health care benefits.

Take Stephen Acquario, the executive director of the New York State Association of Counties. He makes $204,000 a year ($25,000 more than the governor) and has perks, in addition to a full state pension, that include an association-provided Ford Explorer. “We represent the same taxpayers [as the people who work in local governments],” he explained to AP.

Employees of all sorts of other organizations – from the Colorado High School Activities Association to the Washington State Apple Commission – qualify, too.

But public officials and others in some of the states are questioning whether employees of such organizations should qualify for government pensions and other benefits – especially because, as the AP story points out, they “face no public oversight of their activities, can pay their top executives private-sector salaries, and sometimes lobby for positions in conflict with taxpayers.”

“It’s a question of, ‘Why are we providing government pensions to these private organizations?’” Illinois State Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Democrat, told AP.

The issue has been bouncing around for some time now. A couple of years ago The Record, a New Jersey newspaper, offered up the story of Celeste Carpiano, the executive director of the New Jersey Association of Counties, who - after retiring with a $99,000-a-year government pension and lifetime health, prescription and dental coverage and a one-time $53,221 credit for unused sick and vacation time - filed for unemployment benefits.

For the record, the 20 states on AP’s list are: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Washington.

 

Photo: Becky McKray via Flickr

 

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