Editor’s Pick
APRIL 12, 2012 4:42PM

Man Worries about Wisconsin's Retirement System

Rate: 16 Flag
(first published on WIvoices.org)
Well into the evening, I met Bob Beglinger and his wife Sheryl after they had been on the road for several days. Bob is a member of the citizen’s group called POWRS Committee (Protect Our Wisconsin Retirement System). He has been busy traveling around the state speaking to concerns that the state government may be taking steps to alter the fully-funded system, which serves 572,000 Wisconsinites. The WRS has been copied by innumerable entities, both foreign and domestic, so Bob questions the motives behind changing such a coveted system. He is not only an advocate for present and future retirees, but after serving the public for 34 years as a state worker, Bob is a WRS member himself.

Here’s his story.


You’ve asserted that the WRS is not only one of the best public pension systems in the country, but also in the world. What do you reference to make that kind of statement?

“Well, our pension system has been studied by a number of different groups to look at funding levels, to look at stability, and its performance. Our pension system is currently fully funded. There is no unfunded liability; it doesn’t cost taxpayers anything. It is supported in full by the contributions by the members and required employer contributions. The Pew foundation, in a study, recently indicated that it was 99.67% funded. The National Public Pension Institute considers anything that is 80% funded as fully funded. We are the 9th largest public pension fund in the country, the 30th largest in the world. The fund pays its own costs of administration. It has typically beaten the benchmarks; it’s beat the stock markets in its performance. It has provided pensions, so that the retirees can retire in dignity without costing the taxpayers. And so, yes, our pension is, I think, one of the best in the world. It is one that many other states wish they had. It would resolve many of the issues that Rhode Island is dealing with, or California, where a lack of adequate funding levels have created huge holes in the budget, which were used to justify to changes.

It is clearly not broken. I guess I really question the wisdom of essentially trying to fix what ain’t broke.”

So, has there been an assertion that the WRS is, in fact, broken?

“There has not been an assertion that the WRS system is broken. However, there has been a request for a study of the WRS and ways in which it could be converted…converted in ways that would be very detrimental to the system. The study request was originally in Act 10, the “Budget Adjustment Bill”, some people call it the “Budget Repair Bill”. I don’t really think it repaired anything, so I prefer to call it a Budget Adjustment Bill. The study of the WRS was pulled from that bill. I’d really like someone to explain why it was pulled. I have my own guesses, but it magically reappeared in Act 32 in the Budget Bill. So, that study request is still out there. The study will be conducted.”

UPDATE: (After this interview, WI Rep. Strachota introduced AB 539 (previously LRB 3202) that would initiate the first changes to the current WRS. I contacted her office for comment. I received an email that asserted the bill’s only intention “would allow the UW System discretionary authority to create an optional retirement plan limited to new professors and new academic staff hired after the bill becomes effective.” However, many opponents of AB 539 assert that passage of this (now delayed) bill would be an effective “back-door attempt” to overhaul the WRS entirely through smaller stages.)

“Ironically, the results of that study will be presented to the governor and the Joint Finance Committee, which is a bit unusual. Typically, anything dealing with pension systems would go to the Joint Survey Committee on Retirement Systems. Why, suddenly, is that channel being abandoned? Even though any changes to the pension systems have to go through that committee? But instead, suddenly, the study is going to the JFC and the governor…raises some questions.”

What questions does it raise?

“Well, if you were to consider changes to the WRS, it would only make sense that you would refer it to the committee of legislators (JSCRS) that have specialty, experience, and knowledge in that area. The JSCRS is also comprised of 3 Republican, 2 Democratic, and one independent legislators. It might be more difficult for the governor to control what comes out of that committee than to control what comes out of the JFC (which has 12 Rep/4 Dem split).

Now, if I wanted to change something, the first thing I need to have is a reason. This study opens up the system to any changes. One directive of the study is to look at the contribution rates and whether or not people can opt out. Allowing people to opt out will make the fund ineligible for IRS…if you make it voluntary, it becomes very easy to adjust the rate, and any budget bill can manipulate it further. And with voluntary contribution rates, with college loans and families, and you are creating a generation of people who are not going to be self-supporting in their elderly years. I’d say, pay me now or pay me later, but YOU are not really paying me now. The people have paid themselves! Lose regular contributions and the fund would be destroyed.

Another possible change, as we’ve seen in Michigan, is that ALEC has encouraged governors around the country to move from a “defined benefit” to a “defined contribution” pension plan. We call WI a defined benefit plan, but it really isn’t. It is a hybrid. It is a combination of a defined benefit and defined contribution.

My concern I guess is — ah – you take a retirement system that is really the envy of 49 other states. Very, very few other states, today, can say that they have a pension system that is fully funded, pension system that supports itself, that pays its own costs of administration, that doesn’t cost the taxpayers anything, and yet provides a decent pension for retirees and allows them to live out their elderly years with some dignity. And this opens the door to the possibility of the right-wing agenda to privatize that pension.

Um, we have been really reactive in the way that we’ve dealt with the governor’s office. I don’t think anyone can argue that these aren’t extraordinary times. But we’ve seen a pattern where agendas were suggested and suddenly rolled out that were much more aggressive than suggested and then fast-tracked through the legislative process. And we’ve reacted to these changes.

And at some point we have to be pro-active. That requires that we do a little guess, and look in the crystal ball, who is opening up this pension system to change? What is some of the rhetoric that we’ve heard?

That group that wants to move to the right does offer some suggestions. There has been a move toward personal responsibility, towards reducing government. I think Grover Nordquist said it best, when he said he wanted to reduce government to the size that it would drown in the bathtub. Well, one way to reduce the size the government is to eliminate 2 agencies: SWIB (State ofWI Investment Board) that invests the pension funds, and ETF (Department of Employee Trust Funds) which administers the programs of the retirement system.”

Do you know the amount of money that is in the WRS?

The WRS currently contains about 80 billion dollars. That 80 billion is the result of contributions made by employees, matching contributions made by employers, and the interest in dividends…many of which until this past year were made totally by the employees and employers. If they shut their doors, tomorrow, it is estimated that it would pay for the full retirement costs of anyone who has participated for the next 30 years. All public employees that work more than 1,200 hours a year… all state, local, and municipal…there are a few exceptions…

I think WC Fields told us, “Democracy is the best form of government that you can buy.” And with the $5 to $6 billion in private management fee you could generate by privatizing the system, you might be able to buy a good chunk of that government. And this is the concern.”

How do you challenge the assertion that this is really tax payer money and that the state should be able to do with it what is pleases?

I would challenge the assertion that it is state money simply based on the fact that it is part of a wage and benefit package that I earned for work I performed and contributed my money to that fund. If I contributed, as I have to other retirement funds, it doesn’t make that state money. I earned that for services that I performed. It is compensation that employees earned for services performed. Unlike social security – those assets currently exist in the WRS. They exist in a separate fund, and they exist in the form of assets, in the form of stocks and bonds.”

People in the private sector do not always have the same type of pension opportunities. Is it unfair that public workers have these retirement packages?

Well, I would say, if you go back historically about 20 years, you would find that about 80% of private employees that had pensions had defined benefit plans, very much like ours. There has been a huge change. And now that number has flipped to about 20% of private pensions with defined benefit plans. So, many private employees had those at one time. Now, many of them don’t, unfortunately. Public employees enjoy a benefit package that was one of the things that caused them to choose public employment over private, where often they would’ve received a much higher wage. But they chose the benefit over the wage. Besides which, rather than looking at how we can all reduce ourselves to the lowest possible level and choose the lowest pension to which we should aspire…it seems to me, that we ought to be looking at ways that all of our citizens, both in private and public employment, can enjoy dignity in their old age and a pension system that provides for that.

The notion of pension envy. Dave Obey tells a story of the Russian peasant that is walking along this dusty trail and he’s living on the edge of starvation, barely able to eek out a living for he and his family. And he picks up a bottle and he rubs it and a genie appears. And the genie says I’m empowered to give you one wish. And the peasant says my family is starving, we have no clothes, we don’t have enough food, we’re just living in poverty. My neighbor has a goat. The goat gives really good milk and he’s much much better off, he’s much wealthier than I. The genie looks at the peasant and says, do you want me to give you a goat? No, I want you to kill my neighbor’s goat.

This notion, that we should all be as poor as the poorest, just defies reason and common sense. We should all aspire to that rising tide that lifts all boats…to that kind of a pension system that is fair and provides opportunity for our elderly to live out their lives in dignity.”


Bob’s wife, Sheryl, sat quietly in another part of the room. Bob encouraged her to tell him if he was getting too “long winded”. We all laughed. At some point during the interview, Sheryl and I were pleased to make the connection that she had been a former elementary teacher of mine from Elk Mound. Typical of teachers in small farming communities, she remembered me 30 years and thousands of students later.

Later, I thought about Bob and Sheryl as I was dozing off to sleep, warm and comfortable in my bed. They were probably still on the road, hours yet from home. I imagined myself as a young child, this couple already well into their careers. Yet they continue to work endless hours for the people of this state, when they should be enjoying their retirement. Why? For the “opportunity for the elderly to live out their lives in dignity”, Bob says.

A value we all share.

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"...it seems to me, that we ought to be looking at ways that all of our citizens, both in private and public employment, can enjoy dignity in their old age and a pension system that provides for that."

Amen, Bob.

Heidi, I think you just need to get yourself hired as a reporter somewhere. You are doing the real work.
Thanks so much Steve ~ there are a thousand of these stories and we'd love to keep doing them, so we currently fundraising on our website, we'll see how it goes!
There are so many things to be genuinely concerned about, it makes the bogeymen created by "conservatives" all the more deplorable.
The argument that private industry always does anything and everything better than govt is absurd, but it has become so inculcated in our culture as to become gospel. So -- how was Enron better than NASA?

The truth is govt often succeeds when an agency is adequately funded and staffed by people who believe in the purpose of that agency. When an agency is underfunded and staffed by people who don't believe in that agency's purpose, you get abominations like the SEC under Chris Cox or FEMA under Mike Brown.

The idea that govt is evil -- or as Reagan had it, the problem -- is so foolish as to be laughable. In a democratic republic (I use that technically-correct qualifier to satisfy the political pendants who have no better argument to make), the people ARE the govt -- or at least we used to be before the Kochs and GE and Wall Street took over -- and thanks to the five blind mice on the Supreme Court and their decision in Citizens United, that's likely to get worse before it gets better -- if it gets better.

Thank goodness ordinary people in Wisconsin had the guts and the good sense to stand up to these monsters and say "enough is enough". Let's hope Scott Walker lives up to his last name and walks right out of the governor's mansion -- even tho he will likely walk into a cushy overpaid job with the Krook Bros.
Great reporting. The fact that Bob and Sheryl are able to 'spend' their retirement fighting to keep the fox out of the hen house is testament to the existing system. Correct me if I am wrong, but wasn't social security more secure and better able to met its responsibilities before the back door was opened, allowing the fox to sneak in and redirect the hens' assets to fox-friendly endeavors?
Tom ~ "The truth is govt often succeeds when an agency is adequately funded and staffed by people who believe in the purpose of that agency."

exactly. exactly. And all the gov't programs that have now been cut are now operating w/ the worst morale among staff, people retiring or quitting, those left feeling beaten down and ill equiped to meet financial obligations, and on top of all of that - worry about retiring as promised to them some day. The "system" will suffer, therefore, justifying more cuts to it.

beauty ~ you make an excellent point about SS; now people are facing the dual dangers of losing retirement AND SS.
Once again, this is an example of Scott Walker and his true believers going too far. Things like this make it ever more important that there be a successful recall of Governor Walker and his Republican allies in the state legislature. As OS viewers and posters, I urge you to give whatever money you can to SEIU, the Daily Kos, or any other group that is organizing for this effort.

Put your $5 up against the Koch brothers, and we can not only fight the good fight in Wisconsin, but we can provide a catalyst for greater social change all across this land.
I may be missing something here but I have two questions:

First, I'd love to see some real numbers. In other words, what does a retiring high school teacher with, say, 25-30 years on the job get in the way of a defined benefit.

Second, how can you say the WRS, in being fully funded, costs the taxpayers nothing? The "employers" you speak of are Wisconsinites. Or Californians. Or Oregonians who, through taxation, pay the bills.

Though I'm no fan of Walker by a long shot (I think he's poison!) I think that there's plenty of blame to go around. Public employees have a hell of a deal, mostly. They make *very* good wages; they have Cadillac benefits, and they retire with far more than most workers in the private sector. No politician was willing to put the brakes on escalating costs of government in good times. They just paid up. With *our* money.

Envy? You bet. When you've lost your job and are about to lose your house or you can't pay your property tax bill, you tend to be a little hacked off when you read that your kid's high school principal retired with $95K in annual retirement benefits. Even private sector defined benefit plans weren't that remunerative.

In case you're wondering, my creds include having served on the budget committee of my little town for a couple of years. When I delved into employee salaries and retirement plans, it was a real eye opener. They have a very sweet deal!

When I questioned the thing, the members of city council effectively told me to shut and sit down. The process was a joke.

All that said, I am in no way saying that public employee unions should be done away with. Unions do what unions do. No problem. I just wish that pols had the courage to drive a more reasonable bargain. But pols, too, do what pols do. Take the easy way out. Every single time!
Old Lefty ~ great to see you, excellent suggestions for groups. We are also fundraising in order to continue to feature these stories at WIvoices.org

Flylooper ~ The “real numbers” you seek can be found by actually checking out the links scattered throughout this interview– over 12 sources in all. In fact, I’ll make a couple of them really easy:

This link clearly shows the innacuracy of your statement concerning private/public pay: http://slge.org/publications/out-of-balance-comparing-public-and-private-sector-compensation-over-20-years

This link provides salaries of public workers across our state of WI: http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/dataondemand/33534649.html

In our school district, employees have a $4000 deductible; employees pay the first $1400, district the next $700, employees pay the next $1400 and so on….. Maybe you consider this a “Cadillac” health care plan, but those are the real numbers for ONE place of work out of thousands, some better, some worse.

Your turn. Rather than making subjective comments, I challenge you to return with some facts. Please provide links to qualify these statements that you’ve made in your comment:

“Public employees have a hell of a deal, mostly. They make *very* good wages; they have Cadillac benefits, and they retire with far more than most workers in the private sector.”

Your sources please.
Baltimore ~
please supply sources to back up any of your statements. How about "overstuffed paychecks of wisconsin public employees" for starters.

I'll be happy to supply my sources for the 3rd time now.

This link clearly shows the innacuracy of your statement concerning private/public pay: http://slge.org/publications/out-of-balance-comparing-public-and-private-sector-compensation-over-20-years

This link provides salaries of public workers across our state of WI: http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/dataondemand/33534649.html

It is always easier not to listen to regular people. It is always easier not to look at the over 12 sources I have provided for you to check Bob's story for yourself, "doesn't make it right though".
"explain to me why wisconsin civil servants, who probably need to commit a felony to ever be in jeopardy of losing their guaranteed lifetime jobs"
Batimore Aureole, how about some data to back up that assertion you pulled out of you hat, ( or elsewhere ). Do you know anything about the contractual arrangements of employees covered by this retirement system? Looks like someone has a really bad case of "Pension Envy".
Tom Cordle said everything I could have said, only better. I would wager this kind of educational campaigning is highly effective in keeping voters aware of what's at stake and keeping them interested. Good work Heidi.

P.S I admire your cool handling of the hecklers. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for them to respond.

I can see why you'd be irritated by a retired principal bringing in $95K/year.
Administrators always seem to get the best deals, in both private and public sector employeement.
But that's the exception, not the rule. I'll give you a concrete example.
I know one fellow who retired after 31 years of service as an academic staff member. He's been recognized nationally and
internationally for his work and gets a whopping $34,800/ year. Now if you call that a Cadillac pension?
I'd hate to see what the pinto plan is!
It's my belief that if you're a conscientious public employee who does your work to your best capability throughout a thirty year career, paying into your pension plan with each paycheck, you have the right to expect the agreed-upon sum to be available to you when you're ready to retire. If you fulfilled your part of the bargain, you should not have to justify having that pension to ANYONE. You earned it honorably over many years.

Greedy governors should not be able to decide "You don't really need THAT much when there are poor, deserving millionaires who need that money more" and siphon away your retirement income.

But then, Tom Cordle already said what I believe more eloquently. And I think Steve Klingaman is right, Heidi. You ought to be a paid journalist. I've learned more about Wisconsin from you than from anyone or anything else.

Go, Badgers! You deserve a better governor thant Weasel Walker!

Heidi does wonderful and thorough work for sure. After visiting www.wivoices.org, I discovered her Kickstarter project. Folks my want to consider helping her out.
I'm guessing reporter jobs are pretty few and far between in this economy.
You have turned the reporting of the Wisconsin debacle into a great human story and I admire you for it Heidi..I am so glad you write here...
No one should have to die still working. Retirement should be something for all the elderly.
Thank you for this well written piece and please continue to write.
You are doing a yeoman's job of excellent quality.
Would you please tell me who the employers are in "matching contributions made by employers,"? Since it's a public employee pension I only see one "employer" here.

Now where I will agree with you is if you hired in under this plan you should be able to retire under this plan. However, if you are the kid who starts work next Monday, you go to what ever plan is in place at that time. You are not guaranteed the defined benefit plan.
1. There are people gaming the pension system and they do collect pensions over 75K. These people are the exception. Most people do not collect outrageous amounts. One key rule of management is to avoid basing new regulations on anomalies. Feel free to be jealous of those who are receiving outrageous benefits, but do not seek to punish all of the other people.

2. Pension systems are designed to pay benefits mainly from two sources. Those sources are contributions from the employee and interest earned on the investment. The state pays a relatively small portion of the pension benefit. If it were not a good deal for the state, they would not have agreed to it for so many years.

3. If the pensioners remain in the state, that money immediately gets spent and recirculated, thereby stimulating the economy.

4. I cannot imagine in what universe people consider it wise to steal pensions from the elderly, but I strongly suggest these people look at the facts and rethink their philosophy.
Again, I wish you all the best with your great work. Please, keep writing. The hecklers know what they can go do! R
Heidi, very strong job of reporting on a story that has national implications: the Recall movement, as well as the wholesale mismanagement of many state -- and corporate pension systems -- throughout the country. The problem began before the markets went off the cliff in 2008; this accelerated the financial vortex that took much overbought stock and mortgage-based securities into a free fall. It could have been worse. As bad as the guys managing the funds had done, we somehow survived and marched ourselves out of the grave. It is still haunting us. What happens in many states is being closely looked at. Thanks for your appreciable work here: possibly we will learn how to plan, execute and move to solutions instead of pointing fingers at the custodians of our system, on every level.
Thank-you all so much for the lively discussion and the attention to the stories that often go unnoticed. It really means a lot to the people in WI that we are not alone in this dynamic time of changing public policy! Thanks again OS!
There have been several interesting comments so far. I won't single out each poster to respond to.
As for Tommy Thompson's contribution to the demise of WI as a progressive state. That is certainly true. Thompson championed many causes that went against the WI's traditions of open government and progressive ideals. Take his support of vouchers in the Milwaukee schools as one example.
As far as pensions are concerned, the attack on ALL pensions began in the Reagan Era. I still remember seeing a documentary, by Frontline on PBS I believe, that exposed in detail how the corporate raiders of the day would target companies with healthy pension funds and STEAL the money from workers and pensioners.
The example they gave was that of A & P supermarkets, now defunct do to Wall. St. greed. The raiders did a hostile takeover of the company with the sole intent of dismantling it and pocketing the assets. Among these assets was the A&P pension. Somehow the courts ruled that the pension funds belonged to the company and not the pensioners and workers. ( My guess would be that these were Reagan Judicial appointees ).
Tommy Thompson attempted to raid the WRS when he was in office. In that instance the WI Supreme Court ruled that the money belonged to the workers, NOT the state.
You can bet that if this issue is resurrected before the current WI Supreme court with Justice Prosser at the helm, the ruling will be reversed.
It is also important to note that WI IS ground zero for so many worker's rights issues. If Scott Walker succeeds in WI you can bet other Republicans will follow suit in states like Michigan, Ohio, and elsewhere. All in the name of "protecting the "taxpayer" ( a.k. a billionaires )
So , this is not a new game.
Heidi and Maynard...

I don't want to get into a pissing contest with either of you. I know what I know, and I know it *first* hand, and not from statistics, though I did check out some of the links you provided, Heidi. Not altogether convincing to me.

All I am saying is that the constant giving in to public employees' retirement, wage and benefit demands have cost states dearly. I don't begrudge anyone to take what he can get in collective bargaining. But there's no doubt that PERS and salary costs coupled to a shrinking and distressed middle class, has made public employees stand out like sore thumbs for their job security, their sages, and especially their retirement packages.

As I said, in my little town (pop. 2300), the city personnel get

a. Great wages. The city clerk makes in excess of $74K/yr

b. The director of public services makes over $100K.

c. Not once have any employees *not* been given yearly "step" increases, even with shrinking revenue and 10% of residential property in default or foreclosure. When they reach the top step, the city council simply creates more "steps."

c. The city pays 100% of their medical costs. No deductible, no co-pay, choose your doctor and hospital

d. "Salaried" employees typically "sell" back unused vacation days and overtime hours for cash. No use it or lose it.

On and on. It used to be that one went into government work (I'm talking about ordinary workers, not people who are required to have specialized college degrees or could be called professionals like DAs, administrators, etc.) because it was safe work and more or less exempt from layoffs and cutbacks. You gave up wages for job security. No more.

We should either draw a line in the sand when contract time comes up, or simply raise the tax rates. Or, maybe, both. You tell me how voters would react to that latter prospect.
Here in Colo. state workers don't have it so cushy. My husband has been with the state 25 years. When he started, it was at low wage (even though he has a master's). It took YEARS for his wages to reach what I would consider a "good" salary. He had health insurance, but there were few perks that private businesses seemed to have in abundance, e.g. trips, bonuses, free tickets to something or other. It was always BYOB and food of course at everything. The tradeoff was understood to be that he would collect a good retirement. Now they are trying everything to do away with that. Feels a bit like bait and switch to me.
I can get that some public employee compensation can be overly political and become unsustainable, but wouldn't apply the thought with a broad brush. What may be in one place wouldn't apply everywhere.
I do broad brush paint the problem that brought this question to the fore. In a country of insane and dysfunctional wealth distribution, a politician can make hay out of setting the ever-more impoverished working class against public employees. This, even as the well-bribed pols conspire to pick their pockets.

I would spend 30 times as much effort towards addressing the problem of a country being ran by ideologues pushing slave wages than I would carping about what may truly be, in some cases, irrational public employee compensation.

Simply put, the problem isn't so much public employees are paid too much, it's that too many employees are paid too little.

I'm confused if your addressing me or Heidi Herron?

"We should either draw a line in the sand when contract time comes up, or simply raise the tax rates. Or, maybe, both. You tell me how voters would react to that latter prospect."

No pissing match. Just trying to express my views and opinions.

I think you last sentence is pretty much no the money. Logic would tell us we probably should do both, control spending and modestly raise taxes. But the reality is, that the mindset of "taxpayers", a category of individuals I'm willing to wage includes most of all of us who comment here, is basically to get something for nothing. "Taxpayers" want there services but don't want to contribute to their cost.
My opinion is that you have Grover Norquist and the Republican Party largely to blame for this. I'm close to many state employees, they assure me that years when there were NO budget cuts were few and far between since the mid 1980's. None of them, have had their wages keep pace with inflation. I guess both of our "first hand " knowledge differs greatly.
I've followed attack on public workers very closely for at least seven years now. Local bloggers rant on and on about Cadillac benefits and excessive wages of teachers. Here's the trick public employee foes use consistently. When they cite public employee or teacher wages, they ALWAYS include the cost of benefits, then use that figure as a comparison to private sector workers sans the cost of benefits. A cleaver trick for those predisposed to think all public workers are riding the gravy train.
The facts are that people I know are barely making it. Between increasing health care contributions, wage cuts and higher contributions to retirement, the next result is often a 20% decrease in take home pay.
The teaching profession has been vilified for political gain, to the point where teachers are totally demoralized, asked to do more with less, and frankly ready to leave the profession.
Of course this is exactly for the Public Education foes want. I've done enough research to know the evidence is overwhelming. The goal is to Privatize Everything!
Education to these folks is a large untapped market ripe for the harvest. Others object to Public Ed. on Religious and moral grounds. Few who repeat the Anti-teacher rhetoric are even aware of who has brainwashed them and will deny that they themselves want Publid ed to disappear.
Locally we have a saying for this. "You can't fix STUPID".
Tom - is not quite fair to compare Enron to NASA.
Enron was currupt legal private company. If you want comparisons then compare Enron to corrupt gov agencies.
The difference is this. I don't have to care if McDonalds is more efficient then BK then Wendy's/ It makes no difference to me at all. They can stay in business, or run each other out.
I don't have to worry about it at all and I hive to stake in it unless I am a stockholder.

But I do have a stake in fed and local gov. I pay for it. And I have a right to demand perfection. Just as my employer does of me. My job is guaranteed only by my performance judged by my boss, who determines my pay and pension.

I am the employer and boss of TX school teachers. Or a better comparison in my case, TX gov programmers.
HOw do you think it makes me feel when I am consulting to the state and the programmers tell me directly I am an idiot.
He gets may 20% less pay but he get 9 -5 hours while I design his projects solution over the weekend.
He gets to have his job for life and never work a weekend. He gets a better pension and medical for life.

And I pay for all of this. When that person tells me to my face in a conservation that he would never be so stupid as me to trade places with me, how do I feel.

I feel I made a stupid choice in life. I should have taken his job.
20% less could not have hurt my standard o f living. But less stress would have enhanced it.

Add a pension for life added to a SS check (for which state workers don't pay their half, so they are not making 20% less them me)
and I am the stupid one.

Yes I have a right to demand and define efficiency in the gov sector. I am the boss.
Flylooper, STUPID comment not aimed at you but those who parrot talking points.
Joseph Cole,
Flylooper, others:
This is your lucky day. You too can suckle at the govmint teat! ( If you qualify )
I sho nuff hope $37,000 is a pay raise for you folks. LOL

Maynard - not sure what your point is, but look here.


and click the link

Statewide list of average teacher salaries by school district

to get this spreadsheet.


The average high salary is $61,672
The average average salary is $47,855
The average fringe benefit is $25,000

Since when is 61K for being good (better than others) at your job
a bad income?

The highest paid administrator is $267K. That is about 100K more than a U.S. congressman.

That is just teachers. O wonder about other
I am certain that people are ignorant of what the job of city, township or county clerk entails. I say this because of the complaint about how much their particular clerk earns and that comment displays a shocking lack of knowledge.

A clerk is, statutorily, required to do the following: Write all checks, Balance all accounts with the Treasurer, Conduct elections, maintain all records of the legal entity (including birth, death, payroll, taxes, meeting minutes, correspondence with the public and correspondence legally required to conduct the job in question and to conduct the affairs of the legal entity, etc...) conduct meetings in the absence of the supervisor/mayor/board of supervisors, attend all commissioners meetings and maintain the records of those meetings, supervise employees, interact with the public and a wealth of other things. They do this 50 weeks a year (on average) for a LOT less than they could easily earn elsewhere AND with a LOT fewer "benefits" than they are rumored to receive.

The PROFESSIONS which are equivalent (because it is NOT a single profession) are Senior Executive Secretary (average salary between $36,000 and $58,000 a year), Senior Accountant (average salary between $57,000 and $72,000 a year) and Records Clerk (average salary between $25,000 and $32,000 per year). You complain about spending $71,000 when you SHOULD be paying between $118,000 and $162,000 a year for the job! You're getting off easy - and cheap!

Let me tell you about ONE aspect of the JOB in question...

Maintaining election records. I'm POSITIVE most people believe it is a simple, ten minute a week job. Unfortunately it's NOT a simple, ten minute a week job. When someone moves, the clerk has to remove them from the poll list, send them a letter informing them their registration has been cancelled and update their records. This must be done manually for EVERY voter who moves. When someone dies, the clerk must remove them from the poll list, note the person is deceased on their records and pack away their voting record in such a way it will still exist in 70 years. This must be done for EVERY voter who dies. When someone gets married the clerk must change their name in ALL of their voting records, issue them a new voter registration card, create them a new voter master card, send them a letter informing them of the change and sending their voter registration card. This must be done for EVERY person who gets married or changes their name. When someone registers to vote for the FIRST time the clerk must enter them on the state wide database, create a voter master card, issue a voter registration card, send their voter registration card. This must be done for EVERY first time voter.

That is ONLY the maintenance of voter records that MUST (by law) be done. That's NOT discussing what is involved in conducting an election, not discussing what is involved in maintaining the street index, not discussing what is involved when redistricting is done (we JUST finished redistricting - it took more than THREE MONTHS for all of the redistricting changes to be made on a local, county and state level so that NEW voter registration cards can be printed and sent to EVERY registered voter), not discussing teaching election inspector classes OR anything else involved in conducting an election. Like... ensuring the physical equipment is locked in a place where ONLY they have access to it (legal requirement), securing ballots, ensuring voter assist terminals are properly programmed, and a boatload of other things involved in running an election.

In areas where there are more than about 5000 voters it is a 40 hour a week job JUST to maintain what is necessary to conduct a LEGAL election!

Now, let's discuss those "benefits"...

IF I elected to take the "health insurance" offered to me I would pay HALF the cost of it out of my severely undervalued salary. It would ONLY cover emergencies ... and ONLY 80% of the cost. It covers 0% of *everything* other than emergency services.

Then there's that "retirement" my employers (the taxpayers) are so "generous" as to give me... My employers (the taxpayers) match what *I* pay into my 401K (from my severely undervalued salary) up to $5,000 a year.

Out of my salary comes 401K contributions, income taxes (state and federal), half of my social security (which, due to my RACE I will NEVER COLLECT A DIME OF!), Medicare contribution (Which, again due to my RACE, I will NEVER USE!) and, if I had opted to take the insurance, insurance.

YOU do the math... I make $17,000 a year... do ya REALLY think I am "in it for the money" OR "in it for the retirement"? Bedlam is calling you...
very well done; this pension system sounds great

the loss of benefits and wages in the private sector is something that must be corrected, or it will drag us all down
Joseph ~
You say:
"The average "high" salary is $61,672
The average "average" salary is $47,855 "

When someone will go to these extreme lengths to distort the truth of the people on the ground, a dangerous hidden ideology is exposed.
Average IS average...no further categorization is needed, and then you use your "high" figures to continue your argument. When you can't find the truth in the facts I've given you, you use semantics to attempt to confuse and destroy the truth.

Listen to the regular people, or don't. But to twist and distort rather than listen to people, who have FACTS, to back them up is about the confusing and frustrating people rather than adding anything of truth to the dialogue. Thank-you for exposing that way of thinking, clearly and openly, to all the readers of this blog.

You exemplify clearly what the people of WI are up against, what regular people all over this country are up against. Even with facts proving their stories ~ people like you would lie rather than listen.
Reinvented ~ you hit the nail on the head. Excellent

Paul ~ “it's that too many employees are paid too little.” Exactly. Thanks

Maynard ~ thanks for adding your thoughts – and from WI to boot!! Great added details

Katchy ~ great to hear form you

MrsRaptor ~ your inside perspective, and personal details are always so important; It really helps us all understand when we are given tangible numbers to grapple with and, as reinvented stated earlier, one of the only items remaining for public workers is their retirement