Gov. Rick Perry is double-dipping, drawing retirement income from the state in addition to his salary as governor since late January, newly released records show.
Perry's move to begin drawing from his pension early this year while remaining governor, which his staff says is legal and consistent with state retirement rules, was unknown to the public until federal financial disclosures were made public on Friday.
The national news media buzzed over Perry's "retirement," although his staff said he had not retired but had begun drawing his pension.
On a campaign swing through Cherokee, Iowa, Perry was asked why the Employee Retirement System should be paying his retirement while he's still collecting a salary.
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"That's been in place for decades. ... I don't find that to be out of the ordinary," Perry said of the practice. "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.'"
Perry has chided federal officials for being overpaid and called for sweeping changes to Social Security for American workers, calling the system a "Ponzi scheme."
The governor's gross annual salary is $150,000; his net salary is $133,000. The net monthly annuity check Perry started receiving Jan. 31 is $7,698. Combined, his net pay from the state is now more than $225,000 annually.
Democrats pounced on the news, saying it shows how willing Perry is to do all he can to boost his own pay while imposing hundreds of millions of dollars in state budget cuts.
"When you start getting more money from your employer while also continuing to receive your salary, that's called a raise," said Anthony Gutierrez, spokesman for the Texas Democratic Party.
"Somehow this Republican budget doesn't have room to pay teachers but they can give Rick Perry a $100k pay raise. If Perry wants retirement benefits he should do us all a favor and actually retire. Giving himself a raise while thousands of teachers are losing their jobs is unconscionable," Gutierrez said.
Ray Sullivan, Perry's campaign spokesman, said there's nothing improper about what the governor is doing.
"As part of his standard financial planning, on Jan. 31, 2011, Gov. Perry began to receive a Texas state employee retirement annuity of $7,698 per month before taxes ($6,588 net)," Sullivan said. "The annuity is consistent with Texas state law and Employee Retirement System rules."
'Rule of 80'
Perry, 61, has a long record of state service, having won election as a state House member, state agriculture secretary and lieutenant governor before becoming governor in 2000.
Sullivan cited what's known by state employees as the "rule of 80," which allows state employees to start drawing on their retirement when their age plus years of public service credit totals at least 80.
"The combination of Gov. Perry's U.S. military service, state service and age exceeded the state-required 80 years and qualified him for the annuity," Sullivan said.
Perry continues to pay 6.5 percent withholding tax from his state salary to the state retirement system, the spokesman added.
Perry and wife Anita have considerable assets, but he isn't anywhere near former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's multimillionaire league.
In keeping with his man-of-the-people image, Perry holds 100 to 499 shares of stock in discount giant Wal-Mart, which closed at $58.27 Friday afternoon.
He has accumulated over $1 million in assets, using the lower end of the valuation ranges on the Federal Election Commission form, that are in money funds and a trust. On his Texas disclosure forms during nearly 11 years as governor, Perry reported substantial gains from real estate deals.
Anita Perry earns $65,000 a year fundraising for a nonprofit, the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.
Rick Perry's largest holdings are a management trust worth $500,000 to $1 million that pays him $15,000 to $50,000 in interest and dividends, and a money market fund worth $500,000 to $1 million that earns interest from $15,000 to $50,000.
Under real estate, Perry lists a one-third interest in the family ranch in Haskell, valued at $50,000 to $100,000.
Perry revoked a blind trust in August, when he announced he was running for president, valued from $5,000 to $15,000.
"Gov. Perry's long-standing state blind trust did not qualify as a federal blind trust," Sullivan said. "Therefore, the state blind trust was terminated in August as Gov. Perry announced his candidacy for President of the United States."
Under liabilities, Perry lists a student loan for $100,000 to $250,000 and another that was paid off in July but does not give the amount of that one. Sullivan said the outstanding loan was for son Griffin, who graduated from Vanderbilt University. The other was for daughter Sydney, who attended Texas A&M University.
Perry has a diverse portfolio. He holds fewer than 100 shares of stock in some companies: Coca-Cola, FedEx, Illinois Tool Works, Nordson Corp. and United Parcel Service, with value pegged at less than $5,000 for each company.
He has 100 to 499 shares in other companies including Wal-Mart, Canon, Cisco, Donaldson Inc., Dover Corp. Ecolab Inc., Emerson Electric Co., Sysco Corp., Hewlett-Packard, Intel Corp. and Johnson & Johnson.
Perry has 500 to 999 shares in such companies as energy giant ConocoPhillips, General Electric and Microsoft.
He has a life insurance policy valued from $100,000 to $250,000.
This report includes material from The Texas Tribune and the Los Angeles Times.