KY Lawmakers Who Switch Jobs Get Pension Boost

FRANKFORT — Thanks to a provision lawmakers quietly approved in 2005, many former legislators who switch to judicial or executive branch jobs will see their annual retirement benefits double, quadruple or even increase six-fold, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader in its Saturday edition.

Most recently, Democratic state Rep. Frank Rasche of Paducah chose this week to leave the General Assembly after 15 years to accept a job at the state Department of Education.

By doing so, he will join the first dozen former lawmakers who can qualify to draw much higher retirement checks from the legislative retirement system now that they've taken better-paying positions elsewhere in government, writes veteran political reporter Ryan Alessi.

Lawmakers who serve more than five years in the General Assembly are eligible to join the legislative retirement system, which pays retirees a pension based on the number of years served and their legislative salary, which is usually between $15,000 and $22,000 a year for most.

But a technical provision buried in a 2005 retirement system bill altered the pension program so that lawmakers who become judges or take a position in the executive branch will get a pension benefit based on their highest three years of salaries in state government — not just as a lawmaker, reports the newspaper.

The former lawmakers' more robust pension checks from the legislative retirement system are in addition to any retirement benefits they'll receive for their new job in the judicial, general government or county pension systems.

That would mean, for instance, that if Rasche works in the Department of Education for at least three years, his legislative pension payments would be calculated on his 15 years in the General Assembly and his new $80,000 salary instead of the $15,000 to $22,000 he's been earning as a lawmaker.

Donna Early, executive director of the system that manages both the judicial and legislative pension programs, said this new provision will cost the state more over time.

”This is all new. We're still gathering data on how much it will cost,“ Early said.

She said the legislative retirement plan, which received $379,600 in state money this biennium, will try to calculate next year how much more money will be needed to cover the anticipated cost of former lawmakers earning higher salaries elsewhere in state government, the newspaper reports.

Rasche, who didn't return a call for comment, has accepted the position of legislative liaison for the Department of Education, pending approval of some final paperwork, said agency spokeswoman Lisa Gross.

That $80,000 salary will be a sharp increase from the $184.88 Rasche and other lawmakers are paid for each day of legislative work. The General Assembly was in session 60 days this year and another five for a special session. Lawmakers also attend dozens of committee meetings throughout the rest of the year, reports the Herald-Leader.

Rasche joins five other lawmakers who were in the General Assembly in 2005 who have either been appointed or elected to executive branch positions, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Copyright - The Lexington Herald-Leader
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