S.C. Sen. David Thomas (RINO-Greenville) has become the national poster boy for elected officials gaming state pension systems in order to give themselves exorbitant pension benefits not available to other government workers.
Thomas was featured prominently Friday in a USA Today special report on the subject. That report found that 4,100 lawmakers in 33 states are benefiting from “special retirement laws that they and their predecessors have enacted to boost their pensions by up to $100,000 a year.”
Thomas, specifically, has been receiving a $32,390 annual retirement benefit for the past six years in lieu of his $10,400 part-time legislative salary – even though he hasn’t retired. Thomas will continue to receive the benefit for the rest of his life.
How’s he swinging that? And why is his benefit more than three times his legislative salary? Well, in 2002 Thomas and his colleagues passed a law that permitted them to take a benefit in lieu of salary once they reached retirement age. As for the inflated payout, lawmakers passed language that permits them to count their taxpayer-funded lodging, food and travel expenses toward their pension.
None of those benefits – which have resulted in Thomas receiving an additional $148,435 in income since 2005 – are available to other state workers.
Thomas, FITS readers will recall, is one of several Upstate lawmakers who in 2009 vowed to “roll up his sleeves” and support former Gov. Mark Sanford in his effort to block federal “stimulus” funding – only to flip-flop and vote against the governor (and more importantly, against the taxpayers) at every turn in the “stimulus” debate. He’s also the guy who basically turned over control of his banking committee to the most liberal special interest group in South Carolina.
In the most recent S.C. Club for Growth fiscal report cards, Thomas received an “F.”
Along with fellow fiscally liberal “Republicans” like Thomas Alexander, Paul Campbell, Ray Cleary, John Courson, Ronnie Cromer, Mike Fair, Wes Hayes, Jake Knotts, Hugh Leatherman, Larry Martin, Glenn McConnell Billy O’Dell and Luke Rankin, we certainly hope that Palmetto state voters will show Thomas the door in 2012.
We may not be able to block his pension payments, but we can make damn sure he’s retired from office for real – and unable to pass any additional self-serving legislation.
Also, we would humbly suggest that in addition to the pension fund reforms we’ve outlined (ideas which have been endorsed by S.C. State Treasurer Curtis Loftis), lawmakers remove these perks immediately.