Judges Push Perry to Sign Pay Raise Bill

9-6-05 - Gov. Rick Perry had asked legislators to approve a salary increase for judges during the 2005 regular session and added the issue to the agenda during the two failed special sessions on school funding.

He had said the increase was needed to help prevent judges from fleeing the bench for more lucrative private practices.

Yet the bill sits on his desk. With a Sept. 16 deadline to sign the bill looming, some jurists are pleading their cases.

Bill Bosworth of Cleburne was among more than 50 judges who wrote Perry, lobbying him to sign the bill into law.

"Absent the increase, I do not know that I will be able to continue the sacrifice," Bosworth wrote in an Aug. 15 e-mail. He makes $108,000 a year, about $40,000 less than he could make as a private lawyer.

In turn, about 30 Texans urged Perry to veto the bill, according to a review by the Austin American-Statesman newspaper.

Some of those who opposed the increase mentioned that the bill also contained an increase in pensions for legislators.

The bill proposes that salaries for district judges increase 23 percent to $125,000 as of Dec. 1, with justices on the Court of Criminal Appeals and Texas Supreme Court seeing 33 percent increases to $150,000.

The action would represent the first judicial raises since 1997. Prosecutors and certain county attorneys also would see raises.

Also, lawmakers who retire after at least 10 years would see a more than 20 percent increase in annual pensions, which would start at about $28,000 and go to more than $100,000 for lawmakers with more than 35 years of experience.

Kathy Walt, Perry's spokeswoman, said the pay raise remains under gubernatorial review.

She added that Perry, whose public career started in the 1980s as a state House member, has no say over the pre-existing tie between legislators' pensions and judicial pay.