State law allows government workers to collect retirement benefits while still working if they have met certain requirements, according to Ray Sullivan, a Perry campaign spokesman. The requirements are based on a formula that takes into consideration the number of years someone has worked for the state and served in the military, as well as the person’s age.
Perry, who turned 61 on March 4, served five years in the Air Force before joining the state legislature in 1985. He was elected state agriculture commissioner in 1990 and governor in 2000.
“The annuity payment derives from years of paying into the Texas Employee Retirement System combined with his years of military service,” Sullivan said. “It is something that he fully paid for and earned because of his service to his country and our state.”
Perry began receiving the benefit in February on top of his salary of $133,000, bringing his total compensation to $224,000 annually.
News of his pension triggered criticism from Democrats and unions.
Dee Simpson, the Texas political director for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, noted that Perry’s decision to accept the benefit came “at a time when the Texas Employee Retirement System is cutting spending for retiree health care by $20 million a year.”
The pension could also open up Perry to criticism from his GOP rivals for the presidential nomination. Republican governors around the country have sought to cut benefits to public employees amid tight budgets during the current recession.
The arrangement of accepting a pension on top of a government salary is typical in Texas, Perry said Friday in Cherokee, Iowa, after a meet-and-greet at the Copper Cup coffee shop.
“The [retirement program] called me one day and said, ‘Listen, you’re eligible to access your retirement now with your military time and your time in [public] service, and I think it would be rather foolish to not access what you’ve earned,’ ” he said.
Perry has called for an increase in the age of eligibility for Social Security and Medicare benefits in an effort to protect the solvency of the programs.
In his “Cut, Balance and Grow” economic plan, Perry attacked the size of the federal government and its pay to workers, and he has advocated other policies that would shift power to the states.
“Federal bureaucrats should not receive real increases in pay while taxpayers are losing their jobs and struggling to pay their bills,” his plan states.
The disclosure document filed Friday, required of all federal candidates, shows that Perry holds between $700,000 and $1.4 million in assets, including at least $500,000 in a money market account.
Perry attached a document filed with the Texas Ethics Commission showing that he had terminated a trust in August, disclosing the assets it contained before they were sold.
The federal form shows that Perry’s wife, Anita, received an $85,000 annual consulting fee from the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault in Austin.
Perry valued his interest in a Haskell, Tex., oil well at $50,000 to $100,000. Assets in the blind trust reported to the state were not given values, including an interest in a separate natural gas well operated by a company linked to one of Perry’s mentors and an appointee to the Texas Transportation Commission.
Staff writer Sandhya Somashekhar contributed to this report.