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Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Hirono, Akaka: Pension’s Perks for Members With a Past
By Selected News Articles @ 1:57 PM :: 5554 Views :: Energy, Environment, National News, Ethics

by Jennifer Yachnin, Roll Call (excerpt)

Even when they're on Capitol Hill, some Members of Congress are still on the state dole.

According to a Roll Call sampling of recently released 2010 financial disclosure reports, at least two dozen Members receive annual pension payments, ranging from a few thousand dollars to nearly $68,000, from their days as state legislators, officials or judges.

Although Members are subject to limits on how much outside income they can earn — the cap was $26,550 in 2010 — pensions and other retirement programs, such as deferred income agreements, are exempt from those rules.

That allows lawmakers who had careers in state government before arriving on Capitol Hill to draw both a Congressional salary of $174,000 and their state pension. The National Conference of State Legislatures tallied 263 former state legislators among the 112th Congress as of December.

"As a practical matter, it's terribly difficult to limit retirement payouts for current elected officials who've served at different levels of government as opposed to serving at different jobs in the same government," National Taxpayers Union spokesman Pete Sepp said. "It's not double-dipping in the strictest sense, and trying to put a cap on it would likely raise all kinds of legal questions."

Among the dozens of Members who reported receiving a pension in 2010 for stints in their respective state legislatures are….

Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), who served in the state House from 1981 to 1994 and as lieutenant governor from 1994 to 2002, received $45,000 from her state's pension program in 2010.

Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) has been receiving a pension from the state government for more than 30 years. In 2010 that check was more than $14,800, a number that has steadily climbed since Akaka left his post in the governor's office in 1976.

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