The Cain Brothers have managed through the years to make government work extremely rewarding. Burl Cain is warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. James David Cain is a former teacher, coach, state representative and state senator who is back on the campaign trail.
Whenever there has been a loophole in the law or special legislation that worked to their advantage, the brothers have been quick to capitalize.
The latest bonanza for Burl is a bonus of $14,872 he received from the state Department of Corrections, according to The Advocate of Baton Rouge. Pam Laborde, the agency’s spokeswoman, said the money was spread out in Cain’s bi-weekly paychecks.
Bonuses to certain state officials came as a surprise to many — including legislators — because of the state’s tough financial condition. As expected, those giving the bonuses had convenient excuses, even though some state employees are losing their jobs because of tight money.
Laborde said Cain and the warden at Dixon Correctional Institute help oversee other parts of the prison system.
We have to go back to 1976 to see when James David Cain got his first big break. Then-Rep. Billy Tauzin got his colleagues to pass Act 601 that allowed former teachers to count their legislative years of service towards their teacher retirement.
Cain voted for the Tauzin bill. The 73-1 vote is recorded on Page 1675 of the 38th day’s proceedings of the 1976 Official Journal of the House of Representatives.
The special benefit was repealed with Act 743 of 1977, but Cain and about a dozen others were able to seize upon the opportunity to enhance their retirement pay.
Cain transferred 15.25 years of legislative service to the Louisiana State Teachers Retirement System by making his 7 percent employee contribution, plus 5 percent interest. The House where he served contributed its 8 percent, plus interest, for those years.
The Allen Parish School Board hired Cain as a drug coordinator in 1987 while he was in the Legislature, and that enhanced his earnings by $23,500 a year, which also boosted his retirement benefits.
Cain retired from the teachers system at age 51 on June 30, 1990, with 30 years’ service credit as a coach and teacher, serviceman and legislator. He is currently drawing $52,789 annually in teacher retirement pay.
In 1991, Cain was elected to the state Senate and began building another retirement nest egg. He served out his House term and with his 12 years in the Senate, he accumulated another 14.7 years of service credit in the Louisiana State Employees Retirement System.
Cain was term-limited in 2008 and is currently drawing $13,208 annually from LASERS, or a total of $65,997 from both retirement systems.
If Cain is elected to the Senate this fall, he can continue to build on that latest retirement. However, it won’t be as beneficial because of a retirement reform law passed earlier this year.
Most legislators haven’t been able to join a retirement system since Jan. 2, 1997, but Cain was grandfathered in at that time because he was already in the LASERS retirement system.
Burl Cain’s big break came in 2002 when he got a raise of nearly $45,000 a year by retiring and then going right back to work. The Associated Press said he took advantage of a law designed to rehire experienced state employees.
Retirees could go back to work before the new law, but they could only draw up to 50 percent of their pension without being penalized. They could end up owing the retirement system money at the end of the year if they earned more than 50 percent of their retirement pay.
The 2001 legislation allowed state employees to retire, be rehired immediately and, after 12 months, draw full retirement pay as well as their regular paychecks.
Cain was making about $98,000 a year at the time as warden at Angola. He retired Feb. 7, 2002, and was rehired Feb. 8, 2002, according to pension system records. The following February he was eligible for a $3,743-per-month ($44,916 annual) pension, in addition to his regular salary.
Some 180 employees at the Department of Corrections also took advantage of the law.
Glenda Chambers, executive director of LASERS at the time, said, “We did not foresee that people would decide to retire prior to when they would normally retire and be immediately rehired. It’s just an unforeseen consequence.”
Chambers was able to get the law repealed with Act 165 during a 2002 special session of the Legislature. However, Cain and 203 other state employees, most in the Department of Corrections, were grandfathered. They continued to draw full retirement pay, plus their salaries.
History has shown that whenever legislators sponsor special interest retirement laws that benefit a select few they often open the floodgates for others to grab a piece of the action. And, as you can see, the Cain Brothers are especially adept at seizing on those golden opportunities.
Jim Beam, the retired editor of the Lake Charles American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or [email protected].