Under the Maple Canopy

Singing Union Songs Since 2009

More on the “Hey, thugs he’s saving your pension” bit

Before I posted yesterday, I frantically tried to see if I could find a circa April 5th or 6th article that talked about the Budget Repair Bill that was passed this month with a few Democrats voting for it (unfortunately including Senator Cullen – sheesh).  I wasn’t successful and had to strike my question about who was trying to save what.  Mainly, in my foggy memory I remembered there being a section in the recently passed bill that takes money from the Wisconsin Employee Trust Fund to balance the budget – which to me sounds a lot like undermining the fund, not saving it.

Being the persistent person that I am and not willing to admit that there was something I couldn’t find via a search engine or database, I decided to give it another go-round this afternoon between laundry and dishes.  I’m pleased as punch to know that my powers of search-engine-itude haven’t failed me.

The bill includes a $28 million transfer from the Employee Trust Funds intended to pay for group health insurance and pharmacy benefits for state workers. The money instead would be transferred to state agencies to reduce employer costs for providing insurance for state workers.

Democrats immediately accused Republicans of backing away from campaign promises not to raid segregated funds, which are designated for specific programs and expenses.

Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller, D-Monona, said the provision also is similar to a $200 million transfer from the Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund made in the 2007-09 budget that the state Supreme Court has said was illegal and must be repaid.

“(The ETF provision) runs contrary to prior court rulings, which have ruled that using Wisconsin retirement system assets for anything other than for the purposes for which they were provided is prohibited,” Miller said.

The bill passed the Senate and Assembly on Tuesday with the provision intact.

For the record, Mr. Welhouse, it’s not a matter of a “‘gotcha’ game.”  I don’t really know what that kind of game would look like.  It’s a matter of principle.  I suppose one could even argue that it’s a matter of law.  If you promise compensation (deferred or otherwise) according to a good faith bargained contract, it’s not an issue of “overpayment,” it’s the “sanctity of contracts.”  Can you imagine what would happen if the government “would start abrogating contracts left and right?”  We would end up “on a worse slippery slope than [we] already [are]….If government officials were to break the contracts, they would be breaking a bond.  [We’d] be raising a whole new question about the trust and commitment organizations have to their employees.’

Really, when we talk about our public employees, you have to admit that “[t]he jobs are terrible….You have to read about yourself in the paper every day.”  Many public employees are “leaving as soon as they can.”  Regardless of “how offensive and painful it might be,” for Wisconsin Republicans to consider the government following its contractual obligation to public employees, we really must “honor the contracts.”**

**My hat is off to Aaron Ross Sorkin for distilling the moral hazards involved in nullifying legally binding contracts for me, even if he didn’t quite imagine being quoted in this way.

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