While those focusing on the budgeting process during the last few weeks of session will likely key in on hot topics like water, transportation and education, many will likely miss the Legislature’s cowardly attempt to pad their own pensions under the auspices of a judicial pay raise.

Legislators love to tell how noble they are for spending six months in Austin fighting for you—all for just $600/month (not including per diems). Conveniently left out of that conversation though is the sweetheart pension deal lawmakers become eligible for after only eight years of service.

Lawmakers serving eight years can collect $23,000 a year when they retire at age 60. If they served 10 years, they’re eligible for $28,750 a year in pensions funded by your tax dollars. Twenty years in the pink dome gets you up to $57,500 plus health care.

Despite the sweet payoff for six months of work every two years, lawmakers are seeking to raise their pension even more.

No, they won’t tell you they explicitly sought to do so, because of how their pensions are calculated and the way they’re trying to sneak it by taxpayers.

Current law ties legislator’s pensions to the salary of a judge, currently set at $125,000/yr. Any increase in judge’s pay results in an automatic pension increase for lawmakers.

And that’s exactly what the budget conferees have agreed to, according to the Texas Tribune, seeking to raise judicial salaries by 12 percent.

Such a noble agreement to come to, knowing their own pockets swell as a result.

Because this “agreement” was made in the budget conference, there is no record vote, giving political cover to the 10 members of the committee. And because their “agreement” will be stuck into the budget sent back for both chambers to agree on, lawmakers in both chambers have cover from voting on such a controversial move, because they were just “voting for the budget.”

And you wonder why taxpayers have such distrust for those in public office.

If the Legislature truly wants to raise judicial salaries, they should sever the statutory tie to their pensions first. To do otherwise is disingenuous and insulting.

If this provision stays in the budget sent back to both chambers to approve, legislators should absolutely vote against conferring with the conference committee. 



Dustin Matocha

Dustin Matocha is the CFO and COO of Texas Scorecard. Dustin graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a BBA in Management, a BA in Government, and a minor in Marketing. He’s a self-described Corvette enthusiast, baseball purist, tech geek and growing connoisseur of local craft beer.


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