Rick Perry ‘Retires’ Early To Collect Pension Benefits

Rick Perry's personal financial disclosure released today shows the Texas governor essentially "retired" in January to begin the early collection of pension benefits, drastically increasing his take home pay as governor.

The FEC disclosure revealed Perry's gross annual income as governor of Texas of $150,000 was supplemented in the last year by a $7,698 annuity each month, totaling $92,376 a year.  This raises the Texas governor's total annual income to more than $240,000.

The story was first reported by the Texas Tribune.

Ray Sullivan, communications director for Perry, told ABC News the governor started receiving the Texas state employee retirement annuity on Jan. 31, 2011, and said "the annuity is consistent with Texas state law and Employee Retirement System rules."

Per Sullivan, Perry, 61, qualified for the annuity based on the state's rule of 80, which combined Perry's service in the U.S. military, state service and age.

Sullivan noted "Perry continues to pay into the Employees Retirement System with a 6.5 percent withholding from his state salary."

Perry defended his use of the system while he continues to serve as governor saying, "That's been in place for decades and I bought my military time and then obviously the 25 years of public service time, so as you reach that age you become eligible for it, so I don't find that to be you know out of the ordinary."

"I think it'd be rather foolish to not access what you've earned," Perry told ABC News.

Perry has admonished the distribution of special perks to members of Congress and also called for reforms to the Social Security system.

The FEC disclosure also revealed Perry's wife, Anita, received an $65,000 annual consulting fee from the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.

UPDATE:  A bit of context that has Democrats particularly gleeful - over the summer, Gov. Perry signed a bill that makes it more difficult for teachers in Texas to engage in this kind of "double-dipping" of getting a pension while still working.

New retirees in the Teacher Retirement System of Texas have to be out of the teaching workforce for a full year before they can go back to work, or they risk losing a portion of their pensions. (The bill didn't apply to the broader Employee Retirement System that Perry, as a former state lawmaker, is part of.)