BROOKSVILLE — U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent figured it would be a mere formality taken care of with the stroke of a pen.
The Spring Hill Republican already has a pension from his career in law enforcement, including 10 years as Hernando County Sheriff.
So, Nugent, who was elected to the District 5 House seat last November, thought he could sign paperwork opting out of the congressional pension program, just as he did for health benefits.
He was wrong. Members by law are required to enroll in the program.
"I still don't get it," Nugent said last week.
Now, he's trying to change the law.
The bill, dubbed the "Congress Is Not A Career Act" and Nugent's first piece of legislation since taking office, would allow members to opt out of the congressional pension, as well as the federal match to their deferred compensation plan.
Members can defer some of their compensation for retirement, and Nugent has decided to do so. Under current law, he has to accept a full taxpayer-funded match up to 5 percent of his $174,000 annual salary.
Nugent noted that most members of the military — including his three son — don't get matching benefits from the government. He said the decision to opt out of medical coverage is costing him about $9,000 per year.
He said the goal of his bill is not to "impose our views on anyone else," just to give some flexibility. He is now seeking co-sponsors.
"I would hope that it would have bipartisan support," he said. "There's a number of us that are in the same position I'm in, and there are members that are extremely wealthy who don't need those particular benefits."