Posted March 22nd 2011 at 11:55 am by
in First Person Policy, Perspectives on Current Events

Voice from Wisconsin: Being the Collateral Damage

I’ve got a few perspectives I can bring on the budget repair bill that was recently signed in Wisconsin, but first I’ll talk about where it hurts the most: my house.

My paycheck comes from a small town in Dane County, Wisconsin where I am a deputy Clerk/Treasurer/Administrator, and have been for almost 6 years now. My take-home salary will be about $2,500 less over the course of a full year because of this bill, and I’m not employed by the State of Wisconsin.

This is my largest problem with the whole situation. I understand that our state (and many others) has financial issues, and that we need to do things to balance the budget. However, the budget repair bill takes the authority away from local and county governments as to how they are going to compensate their employees.

The bill is not only aimed at State of Wisconsin employees, but also the plow-drivers, clerks, teachers, and others who serve all in our state. It requires all participants in the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) to contribute 5.8% of their salary towards the overall contribution. The typical practice in Wisconsin has been that the employer (municipality, county, state) pays the full contribution to WRS, both the employer and employee share (11.6% of total salary). This bill takes that authority away from municipalities and, furthermore, caps our salary raises at the consumer price index (inflation).

There is also a health insurance component to this bill that requires the employee to pay 12.6% of his health insurance premium. This component doesn’t affect me because my town requires us to pay 25% of the premium, and I do not carry our household’s insurance so I don’t take the insurance my employer offers.

Why do I have such a huge issue with this bill? To be honest, local control is one of the tenets of the Republican Party. Smaller government. This bill goes against everything they believe by usurping the authority of my town board when it comes to how much they want to compensate me.

I think that for a political party to go against what it truly believes in makes me wonder about that party, or at least the legislators who are in that party right now. It’s pretty evident, no matter what side you’re on, that this was never about the budget. Clearly, they have wanted to bust up the unions from the very beginning. Governor Walker never campaigned on that, which was probably a smart move on his part because otherwise he never would have gotten elected. My colleagues and I are the “collateral damage” of this bill, as are the nurses, the teachers, and other folks who participate in the Wisconsin Retirement System.

Post by Chris Astrella of Dane County, Wisconsin.

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