By Lesley Weidenbener
Lesley Weidenbener, executive editor, TheStatehouseFile.com
INDIANAPOLIS – State Treasurer Richard Mourdock twice asked voters to send him to the capitol to watch over the state’s investment portfolio.
In the end, though, Mourdock was more interested in his own.
The Republican resigned his office on Friday – four months before his second term was to expire. He left on the last day he could be in office and still annuitize a portion of his retirement savings at a higher rate.
It’s not clear how much that will save him. But for the average government worker, retiring now – rather than next month – will mean about $1,000 more in earnings per year.
That’s because for years now, the state has been paying out a higher rate to workers than the money actually earns. Recently, the board that controls the Indiana Public Retirement System decided that couldn’t go on. The huge group of Baby Boomers now retiring could bankrupt the system.
And so the rate is now scheduled to drop – from 7.5 percent for retirees before the end of August to 5.75 percent for those who retire starting in September. The rate will continue then to drop until it reaches the market rate.
Mourdock told the Evansville Courier & Press that he learned what that change would mean to him when he went to a counseling session on retirement changes recently and “it caused me to think about it differently.”
And so within days, Mourdock decided to give up the job that voters had elected him to do and to let Gov. Mike Pence choose his replacement.
That shouldn’t be OK. Mourdock didn’t leave because he was ill or because he had issues to attend to with his family. Instead, he wanted to save some money.
Of course, Mourdock’s political career was all but over. An ill-timed remark he made about rape and pregnancy back in 2012 ruined his chance of becoming a U.S. senator. And with that went an otherwise fairly promising political career.
So when Mourdock left the treasurer’s office at the end of this year, he probably wasn’t coming back. So maybe he wasn’t that concerned about what voters thought.
But that’s too bad because Mourdock has made a career out of lecturing voters about the importance of being a good citizen. He’s used history and public policy and fiery rhetoric to tell Hoosiers why they should vote, why they should be concerned about the state and the nation’s spending and debt, and why they should hold their political leaders accountable.
And along the way he’s made controversial decisions in the name of doing what’s right for Indiana. Most notably, he sued to stop the Obama administration from bailing out Chrysler, a move he said cheated the state, which had invested in the company. He took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court – where he lost – even as his critics complained that the state had to spend millions on the suit and that winning could have cost Indiana even more – thousands of jobs if Chrysler had gone under.
Mourdock maintained throughout the situation that he was simply trying to do what was right – and doing so was more important than doing what was popular.
This week, Mourdock did the opposite. Rather than doing what’s right – finishing a job voters elected him to do – Mourdock made a selfish decision for his own economic future.
Lesley Weidenbener is executive editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.