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December 13, 2012 | By | Posted in WatchBlog

WATCHBLOG: Leaving lawmakers to reap state pension benefits

By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent

This data, released by Rock the Capital, shows annual pension benefits for four departing lawmakers.

HARRISBURG – Lawmakers leaving the state legislature will continue to get benefits from the state in the form of sizable pension checks, including two who’ve reaped benefits of the infamous 2005 pay raise.

Eric Epstein of Harrisburg-based reform group Rock the Capital publicized the pension benefits of four state lawmakers who will not be returning next session. That included state Rep. Richard Geist, R-Blair, and state Rep. Babette Josephs, D-Philadelphia.

Both are among dozens of present and former lawmakers who voted for the controversial pay raise bill in July 2005, and did not return the increase to the state after the law was repealed that November.

Geist will receive an annual pension of $64,742 after 34 years in office. Josephs, who served for 28 years, will receive annual payout will be $63,260.

Both representatives lost primary races in 2012.

“Anytime somebody who hasn’t paid the money back from the pay raise, we release data on their retirement,” said Epstein, who founded Rock the Capital following the pay raise controversy.

Epstein notes that Geist sponsored the pension increase bill of 2001 – which increased benefits in the state’s two pension systems. Josephs also supported it.

The other two lawmakers Epstein highlighted were former state Rep. Ron Buxton, D-Dauphin and Sen. Jeffrey Piccola, R-Dauphin. Both retired this year, and represented districts that include the city of Harrisburg.

Buxton, who was in office for 20 years, will receive an annual pension of $66,603. Piccola, who served in the House of Representatives and Senate for a total of 36 years, will receive an annual payout will be $83,845.

Epstein, who campaigned against Piccola for his senate seat in 2004, said he included these two lawmakers in this year’s list because it’s “hard to justify pension payouts for not fixing problems.”

The city of Harrisburg is struggling with more than $340 million hanging over its head in debt, and is in the state’s Act 47 program for fiscally distressed municipalities.

Both Buxton and Piccola also supported the 2001 pension increase, according to Rock the Capital’s data.

Contact Melissa Daniels at melissa@paindependent.com

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Melissa Daniels is a reporter for PA Independent. She can be reached at 717-350-0962 or Melissa@PAIndependent.com

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