Seventeen members of California’s congressional delegation collect a public pension on top of the salary they receive for working full-time jobs on Capitol Hill.
Fifteen members of the House and both U.S. senators collected one or more public pensions in 2010 while earning their federal salaries, according to the lawmakers’ financial disclosure forms, reports UT San Diego
Their 2010 pension payments, which totaled $427,000, ranged from $1,922 to $79,881 and were collected in addition to the $174,000 a year made by rank-and-file lawmakers, according to UT San Diego.
Four Republicans and 13 Democrats received the pension payments, including San Diego Democrat Rep. Bob Filner, who earned $13,495, and Republican Rep. Brian Bilbray, who earned $28,000. The top earner was Walnut Grove Democrat Rep. John Garamendi.
Pension reform advocates suggest that collecting a pension while in a policy-making position can lead to conflicts of interest.
While no one is suggesting that there is any violation of law, Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, told UT San Diego, “The issue is, ‘Is the system broken?’ And we would argue, ‘Of course it is.’ I think it’s examples like this and many others that cry out for reform.”
The San Diego County Taxpayers Association supports having all or nearly all of California’s public pension plans replaced with 401(k)-style accounts where employers pay a set amount for each dollar an employee contributes to investments they manage.
Critics of that approach say it may not save taxpayer money and may fail to provide public servants with money they need for retirement.
One congressman, Democrat Rep. Michael Honda of Campbell, received a pension benefit in 2010 for his deceased spouse, bringing his total number of pensions to three, the most in the California delegation.
San Diego County Taxpayers Association President and CEO Lani Lutar said the lawmakers’ pension payments raise concerns of double-dipping.
“Pensions are meant to provide for basic expenses for retirement,” Lutar told UT San Diego “What we have observed is that some employees will receive more in public pension payments than at the peak of their career, and that is just absurd.”
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