Carry water for Kitz, get a ticket on the gravy train

Democratic Rep. Ben Cannon is the latest legislator to take a ride on the government gravy train

by NW Spotlight

During the Legislative session a few months ago, Rep. Ben Cannon voted for an ethics reform bill to set a “waiting period” on legislators before they can seek and obtain non-elected positions in the state’s executive branch. The ethics reform bill passed unanimously out of the House, but then died in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

When it passed out of the House, the bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Tim Freeman, said “This bill sends the message that legislators are committed to serving the public, not to advancing their own careers.” When Ben Cannon actually got the chance to advance his own career, though, he went against his own vote and took Governor Kitzhaber’s job offer to become Education Policy Advisor – at $105,000 a year. That’s quite a pay raise from his $ 21,612 pay as a part-time legislator.

Capitol insiders noted that Cannon reliably “carried water” for the Governor’s education package. Now that the package has been passed and signed by the Governor, Cannon is definitely ending up a very well-rewarded water boy.

Past legislators who jumped on the government gravy train

Ben Cannon is joining three fellow Democratic legislators who jumped on the same government gravy train last session.

1. Sen. Margaret Carter, D-Portland, announced in August 2009 that she would take a new $121,872-a-year position as a deputy director in the Department of Human Services.  Sen. Carter had served as chairwoman of the Human Services Ways & Means budget subcommittee.

2. Also in August 2009, Rep. Larry Galizio, D-Tigard, was named to a policy job in the state Department of Higher Education at $95,380 a year.

3. Sen. Vicki Walker, D-Eugene, was appointed by Gov. Ted Kulongoski in July 2009 to head the state parole board at $97,020 a year.

PERS advantage on top of big pay increases – besides the pay jumps from their $21,612 a year pay as a part-time legislators, these lucky Dems will also get to leverage their years of legislative service with their new salaries to produce higher pensions. This was especially true for Carter, who had 24 years in the Legislature, and who can now fold her much higher DHS salary into her PERS pension calculation.

For more background on Oregon legislators taking high-paying state jobs, here’s a link to an 8/25/2011 radio interview with Bruce McCain on The Bill Post Radio Show.