Georgia State House members voted this week to more than double their retirement benefits, but some decided that it was not a good idea to vote themselves a raise. The House Bill 624 passed overwhelming 117-42.
Representatives Hogan and Spencer were among the 42 representatives that voted not to increase their own retirement benefits.
Representative Jason Spencer ( R-Woodbine), who represents a majority of Camden County, parts of Charlton and Ware counties voted no on the measure. Spencer said in his weekly constituent newsletter the following:
I am not a contributor to this system, and I never have since I was elected. I believe we should not be trying to enhance this in a time of where Georgians need tax relief and less government in their lives.
Rep. Don Hogan (R – St. Simons) also voted no to increasing his own retirement benefits. Hogan represents portions of Glynn, McIntosh, and Long counties.
Other local representatives that voted in favor of increasing their retirement benefits were Rep. John Corbett (R -Lake Park, GA) and Rep. Jeff Jones (R – Brunswick).
The bill, sponsored by State Representative Paul Battles, was filed in 2017 but failed to make its way to the House floor in time. This year, Battles, a Republican from Cartersville, moved the bill fairly quickly, passing it out of the Retirement Committee on February 14, a committee of which he is the Chairman.
House Bill 624 would increase retirement benefits for state legislators to 38% of their pay monthly, up from $28.00 a year for each year served as currently on the books. Lawmakers earn $17,342 annually, or $1,445.16 per month, though they only serve for 40 days (roughly 3 months) per year. The numbers would equate to approximately $550 in retirement benefits each month. The legislation also allows members to accept a $50 per year of service monthly stipend, instead of the 38%, in retirement. The percentage language is likely paving the way for an increase in lawmaker pay as proposed last fall. The language ultimately passed the House on February 28.
Lawmakers who serve more than 11 years (or 5 terms) in office would benefit more from taking the $50 per year of service monthly stipend than the flat $550.
The measure is expected to cost the state an additional $616,000 every year for the next 20 years, according to the actuary.
The bill also increased the employee contribution to 9.5%, up from 7.5% currently in place.
117 members voted for the measure and 14 members of the House did not vote and 7 were Excused, meaning they were not present on the floor at the time of the vote. It is now in the Senate, awaiting a Committee hearing.