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PolitiFact: Wisconsin bill would even playing field for elected officials, workers

The statement

"Every (Wisconsin) legislator that votes for this bill" will have to "give up the same amount of pay" as other state employees.

Jeff Fitzgerald, Wisconsin State Assembly speaker, on Fox News Channel Tuesday

The ruling

Amid the fiery debate over benefits cuts and collective bargaining rights, we haven't heard much about how Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's plan would personally affect the legislators who will vote on it, so we decided to check Fitzgerald's comment.

Walker's plan would require most public workers to pay half their pension costs — typically 5.8 percent of pay for state workers — and at least 12 percent of their health care costs.

A detailed analysis of Walker's proposal by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau says that under Walker's plan any participant in the Wisconsin Retirement System, including elected officials, "would be required to make an employee contribution to the WRS in an amount equal to one-half of all actuarially required contributions, as approved by the Employee Trust Fund (ETF) Board."

Under current 2011 rates, one half of the general participant rate would be 5.8 percent and one half of the executive/elected official rate would be 6.65 percent. So elected officials would actually be paying a little more than government workers, said Robert Lang, director of Wisconsin's Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

As for health benefits, the bill doesn't specifically mention the effect on elected officials. It simply talks about changes related to anyone participating in the state's "group insurance board coverage." That includes elected officials, Lang said.

There's one other piece of the bill that would affect the benefits of elected officials, and it has to do with the way pension benefits are calculated. Pension payments are based on a formula derived from the employee's salary, years of service and a set multiplier. For general employees, that multiplier is 1.6. For elected officials, the multiplier is currently 2.0. Under the budget repair bill, however, the multiplier for elected officials would drop to 1.6, the same as everyone else. Bottom line: They'll be getting less in their pension checks.

In short, Fitzgerald said the legislators who will vote on Walker's bill would have to give up the same amount of pay. Aside from the collective bargaining issues, Walker's plan would make state employees pay more for health and pension benefits. And according to the bill, elected officials would take the same hits. We rate Fitzgerald's claim True.

For the full version — and to read other rulings — go to PolitiFact.com.

PolitiFact: Wisconsin bill would even playing field for elected officials, workers 02/24/11 [Last modified: Thursday, February 24, 2011 8:48pm]
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