Even though he's not a government employee, he is entitled to a full state pension.
He's among hundreds of lobbyists in at least 20 states who get public pensions because they represent associations of counties, cities and school boards, an
But several states have started to question whether these organizations should qualify for such benefits, since they are private entities in most respects: They face no public oversight of their activities, can pay their top executives private-sector salaries and sometimes lobby for positions in conflict with taxpayers.
"It's a question of, 'Why are we providing government pensions to these private organizations?'" said Illinois Democratic Rep.
Acquario, executive director and general counsel of the
"We want the people that work in local governments to continue to be part of the solution," he said. "We represent the same taxpayers."
The debate is more about principle than big money, since the staffs of such organizations are relatively small and make barely a ripple in huge state retirement systems. The eight
Still, the issue raises a public policy question as many states and taxpayers struggle to fund their pension obligations required by law.
"There is liability for taxpayers," said
Unlike state government, for example, these groups aren't bound by salary restrictions — significant salary increases would result in increasing pension benefits.
But such cuts won't affect Baynes. Under the New York Constitution and that of most states, the benefits of those already in the pension system are protected from future cuts.
"It's clear that there's a big problem with hypocrisy when these lobbyists have been pushing austerity and benefit cuts for other government workers while they themselves enjoy solid state pensions," said Michael Kink of the progressive group Strong Economy for
"Workers who have faced cuts in pay and pensioners have a right to be angry — as do voters," Kink said.
In many states, lobbying groups for states and counties take positions that could conflict with taxpayer interests, such as advocating to weaken caps on property tax increases and boosting state school aid.
But associations of cities, counties and school boards argue that a plausible case can be made for allowing them to get state pensions. These quasi-government organizations operate mostly or solely on dues from their members — local governments or school boards typically — which are paid out of taxpayer-funded budgets. They argue they pool their resources to give a voice to government entities that serve taxpayers.
"It's a technical truism that lobbying groups are not supposed to be in the system," said
Which groups get the pension benefit vary widely across the nation.