With criminal investigators hot on her trail, one Austin lawmaker is announcing that she will “retire” from the legislature – but not before doing her best to cash out.
As a member of the Texas House for over twenty years, State Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin) has never had a record of fiscal responsibility. In fact, Dukes is one of a select group of lawmakers to earn a failing grade on the Fiscal Responsibility Index ever since the report card was first issued. Last session was no different, in 2015 Dukes earned the lowest score of any lawmaker in Texas.
But it wasn’t her legislative record in the 84th Legislature that drew the most scrutiny – it was her attendance record. Alleging that she was suffering from the effects of a car accident that occurred some twenty months earlier, Dukes was almost entirely absent from the halls of the Capitol.
According to an in-depth review by the Austin American Statesman, Dukes missed 44 of her 50 committee meetings and more than 84 percent of roll call votes during the 84th legislative session all while continuing to post pictures of herself at events and concerts and making campaign expenditures.
Those and other exposés have led to an ongoing criminal investigation for misuse of staff and government funds by the Travis County District Attorney and the Texas Rangers.
However, Dukes’ alleged health issues that caused her to miss so much of the job voters elected her to do didn’t seem to stop her from campaigning for her seat. But shortly after the Texas Rangers gave a report on their investigation, Dukes has announced that should she win re-election (which is likely in the heavily Democratic district) she will resign in January.
Such a resignation will leave the district without a vote for over half the time that the Texas Legislature is in Austin.
While Dukes’ resignation will be a welcome reprieve for taxpayers given her disastrous voting record in office, the decision to delay her departure into January will force them to shoulder the heavy burden of conducting a special election for her replacement.
A similar special election in San Antonio for another retiring lawmaker left Bexar County taxpayers with a bill for $118,000.
So why is Dukes not resigning now instead of January? Conservative blogger Adam Cahn points to the state’s pension system as the reason.
By leaving office in January instead of December, Cahn reveals that Dukes will be able to collect $3,220 more a year in pension payments for a total sum of $70,840 annually for the rest of her life. That’s assuming lawmakers don’t tamper with the already generous formula and increase it even more—something they attempt every single year.
In other words, Dukes is handing Travis County taxpayers one bill so that she can milk state taxpayers even more.
While citizens across the state of Texas will still be stuck paying for such an entitled “public servant” for years, voters in Dukes’ district can avoid a major hit to their county budget and soften the blow for Texans by voting against Dukes on the November ballot.