Denney killed pension reform bill, may benefit

If he’s elected Idaho secretary of state, the former House speaker’s benefit could grow sevenfold.

dpopkey@idahostatesman.comOctober 29, 2013 

Former House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, personally killed a bill in 2012 that would have closed a loophole that counts part-time legislative service as full-time experience in calculating state pension benefits, reports the Spokesman-Review’s Betsy Russell.

Denney, 65, said Thursday that he’s running for secretary of state in 2014. Were he to win and serve a four-year term, his state pension would increase from about $500 a month to about $3,600 a month.

A lawmaker for 17 years, Denney makes $16,438 as a legislator; secretary of state pays $99,450. Pension benefits in the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho are calculated based on years of service and the highest 42 months of pay.

Denney acknowledged asking a committee chairman to kill a reform bill that would limit spiking pensions for lawmakers who get full-time state jobs. But Denney said he was “absolutely not” motivated by his financial circumstances.

“I don’t think any of us run for the retirement, you know,” Denney told Russell. “I think there are certainly other reasons, and I think that’s just part of the compensation. And if you’re fortunate enough to be elected to another office, I think that’s part of it.”

From 1985 to 1990, the Legislature closed the pension loophole for part-time elected and appointed officials. But in 1990, lawmakers exempted themselves again. All other elected and appointed officials in Idaho remain limited.

Denney’s ambition to gain full-time state employment goes back more than four years.

He first disclosed his interest in statewide office in May 2009, when he told the Statesman he was considering running for treasurer in 2010 if incumbent Treasurer Ron Crane sought another office. Crane stayed put and Denney remained in the House.

In 2012, Denney became the first speaker in memory defeated by his colleagues, who elected Rep. Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, to lead the House. Denney has said he will retire from the House to run for secretary of state. GOP incumbent Ben Ysursa hasn’t said whether he will seek a fourth term.

Dan Popkey: 377-6438, Twitter: @IDS_politics

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