State pensions go to non-state employees

November 30, 2016

Investigative Reports

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BY DUNCAN TAYLOR

Midsection of businessman holding piggy bank with pension written on it

They lobby the state for benefits – while getting state benefits

With the state pension system unfunded by billions of dollars and getting worse every day, how is it that non-state agencies are being allowed into the public pension system?

That’s exactly what’s happening in South Carolina.

State employees can participate in the system, of course; that’s what it’s designed for. But the purpose gets murkier when others join in, such as special-interest groups and their lobbyists.

One example: The South Carolina Association of School Boards. SCASB lobbyist Debbie Elmore – her title is director of governmental relations and communications – is paid $53,000 a year by the association just for her lobbying, separate from her salary for other duties. She’s not a state employee and the school boards association is not a state agency, yet Elmore also is eligible for a state pension, even as she and the association lobby for publicly funded benefits.

Then there’s the South Carolina Association of Counties. It employs not one but six lobbyists, all of whom can draw state pensions even though the association of counties is not a state agency.

The same is true for the non-state employees at the State Employees Association, the Palmetto State Teachers Association, the South Carolina High School League, and the South Carolina Education Association.

In the end, taxpayers will have to fund retirement benefits of employees at all these organizations.