The Agenda

Has Rick Perry Given Up on His Presidential Ambitions?

As Jay Root of the Texas Tribune reports, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has decided to start collecting his state pension early:


Perry officially retired in January so he could start collecting his lucrative pension benefits early, but he still gets to collect his salary — and has in turn dramatically boosted his take-home pay.

Perry makes a $150,000 annual gross salary as Texas governor. Now, thanks to his early retirement, Perry, 61, gets a monthly retirement annuity of $7,698 before taxes, or $6,588 net. That raises his gross annual salary to more than $240,000.

On a swing through Cherokee, Iowa, Perry was asked why the Employee Retirement System should be paying his retirement while he’s still collecting a salary.

“That’s been in place for decades. … I don’t find that to be out of the ordinary,” Perry said. “ERS called me and said, ‘Listen, you’re eligible to access your retirement now with your military time and your time and service, and I think you would be rather foolish to not access what you’ve earned.’”

Like my co-blogger Josh Barro, I don’t object to high salaries for elected officials. In theory, higher salaries could make elected officials somewhat less likely to seek lucrative lobbying opportunities once they leave office, etc. Deferred compensation raises a different set of issues, as many employees would prefer a small increase in current cash wages to a larger increase in pensions — yet politicians prefer deferred compensation because they’re not responsible for it. This creates a poisonous dynamic that deters large numbers of bright people from entering the public sector, yet that creates a large, expensive, and arguably quite inefficient (in terms of getting the best bang for the taxpayer buck) reward for those willing to stick it out. 

Rick Perry might not see anything wrong with this arrangement. But Republican primary voters might. 

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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