Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pension Tension

A question for the Wisconsin legislators who want to reduce pension benefits and collective bargaining rights for public employees like teachers, police, and firefighters: why don't you go first?

According to the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune, once they retire and pass age 62, those politicians will receive lifelong pensions equal to 70% of their highest salary -- which is more than teachers make. Legislators' pensions are about $38,000/year, while teachers get about $19,000/year. The legislators' salaries average $51,000, while educators average $48,000 (if you exclude administrators, it's much less), a sad number when you consider the level of education required to become a licensed teacher and hold onto the job long enough to earn a pension!

I have yet to hear any of those legislators offer to give up or reduce their own pensions. As for collective bargaining, the politicos are a unit unto themselves and would no doubt find it unfair for each member to have to negotiate his/her own salary and perks.

So, if it's good for the cheese-heads at the top of the state's employee rolls, why isn't it good for those public servants in the schools, firehouses, and police stations?

It reminds me of last year's federal debate over health care and the members of the Senate and House of Representatives who didn't want you to have the public option -- to get health care benefits directly from the government. At the time, and to this day, not one congressman has declined that coverage while denying you that right.