Yes, he’s still governor. He’s “retired” only for benefits purposes, which means he can start collecting his pension while he’s still collecting a salary. It’s perfectly legal. Just … unhelpful.

Perry makes a $150,000 annual gross salary as Texas govenor. Now, thanks to his early retirement, Perry, 61, gets a monthly retirement annuity of $7,698 before taxes, or $6,588 net. That raises his gross annual salary to more than $240,000…

[T]he disclosure is sure to spark criticism of Perry, who has called for sweeping changes to Social Security for average workers and has railed against special “perks” that members of Congress get.

“Perry was legally able to begin collecting the employee class annuity under the ‘rule of 80.’ The combination of his U.S. military service, state service and age exceeded 80 years and qualifies him for the annuity under Texas Government Code 813.503 as amended in 1991,” Sullivan said. “Perry continues to pay into the Employees Retirement System with a 6.5 percent withholding from his state salary.”…

“I do advocate totally rethinking the safety net, personal security programs completely,” Perry said in a November 2010 interview. “Why is the government collecting your tax money for retirement and health care programs? That’s not a stated constitutional role.”

He “retired” back in January, months before he decided to run for president. Had he known he was going to jump in and take withering fire from Romney on his entitlements rhetoric, I assume he’d have waited to start collecting. But it is what it is, and it’ll be thrown in his face every time the subject of Medicare or Social Security reform comes up. I don’t blame him for his logic: He paid in, he worked hard, he followed the rules, and now he wants his money. Problem is, that’s the same attitude seniors take towards federal entitlements, and if Perry beats Obama, he’ll suddenly be the guy tasked with convincing them to relax that attitude a bit in the name of our common fiscal good. How does he rally them to take one for the team and wait until, say, age 68 to enroll in Medicare if he couldn’t wait until finishing his term as governor to start taking his own pension? When I tweeted that a few hours ago, Perry fans jumped on me by answering that Democrats will smear him and attack the GOP viciously no matter what. Which is true, but how does that mitigate the potential damage here? An enemy armed with artillery is more dangerous than an enemy armed only with rifles, and this represents a bit of artillery for them insofar as they’ll use it to try to galvanize resentment against Perry’s supposed hypocrisy. Why do you think Gingrich couldn’t resist digging at Romney’s track record at Bain? Voters remember details to which they can relate personally, like pensions and layoffs. It’s not a liability that’ll sink Perry, but yeah, it’ll be used against him. Texas Democrats are already using it, in fact.

Exit question via Ace’s co-blogger Drew: “You think Chis Chistie might show up at a few events to talk about Perry’s pensions?”

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