Update on statewide issue of rehired annuitants

The issue of rehiring retired employees continues to evolve in Wisconsin, with changes in both policy and legislation being broached by a variety of stakeholders. Here’s a roundup of the latest news:

System President Reilly: Pension, pay rules need clarification

UW System President Kevin Reilly on Friday (Oct. 21) said clearer boundaries are needed as to whether state employees should collect both a paycheck and a pension if rehired after retirement. Following a meeting with all 14 UW System chancellors, Reilly sent a letter to David Stella, secretary of the state Department of Employee Trust Funds, indicating the chancellors support a broad review of the rules and laws that govern the process of hiring retirees. “The UW System has a strong interest in safeguarding the trust of all Wisconsin taxpayers,” the letter said. “We have an equally strong interest in retaining talented faculty, academic staff, and classified staff who help us educate 182,000 students. In an effort to fill critical vacancies at our colleges and universities, we have the ability, granted by the state, to hire people who previously retired from state service. When we do so, we try to follow all the relevant ETF rules and guidelines. I think you would agree that those rules need to be clarified, as part of a broad public conversation about the topic.”

Also on Friday, Gov. Scott Walker said he supports a bill that would curb the ability of retired employees to collect both a pension and a paycheck. For more on Friday’s developments and a link to Reilly’s letter, click here: http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/uw-chief-wants-clear-pension-pay-rules-132363368.html

Press-Gazette coverage: Rehiring retired employees at UW-Green Bay

The Green Bay Press-Gazette on Saturday (Oct. 22) continued its coverage of the rehired retirees situation at UW-Green Bay, pegging the story to Walker’s Friday announcement of support for a bill to change the practice. The newspaper has run multiple stories about the issue at UW-Green Bay, where 15 retirees have been rehired since Jan. 1, as well as statewide, where more than 6,800 public workers have been likewise rehired since January 2005. The Saturday story took a broader look at the practice and how it can be beneficial for faculty as well as administrators and staff. “People who teach for us generally are specialists in their area,” said Scott Furlong, Dean of the UW-Green Bay College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “They are often internationally known for their expertise in the subject. If they didn’t teach some of the courses, we couldn’t offer them, and that wouldn’t be good for students.” Full story:  http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/article/20111022/GPG0101/110220589/Wisconsin-public-employee-rehiring-policy-may-reviewed-after-UW-Green-Bay-disclosure

Channel 2 coverage centers on UW-Green Bay policy change

WBAY, Channel 2 also has been following developments on the rehired retiree front, and on Friday (Oct. 21) sat down to discuss the matter with Chancellor Thomas K. Harden. The story that aired that evening focused on proactive steps UW-Green Bay is taking to draft a more stringent policy governing the practice of rehiring retirees. That policy, which is being reviewed, may serve as an interim policy if state law or policy is changed, Harden said. Full story: http://www.wbay.com/story/15770977/2011/10/21/uw-green-bay-looks-to-change-policy-on-double-dipping

Former Chancellor Outcalt speaks to role of benefits package

Visiting UW-Green Bay recently — he attended the annual retirees dinner as well as a Packers game at Lambeau Field — was former chancellor David Outcalt. During a stop to chat with friends and colleagues from his time as chancellor (1986-93), Outcalt paused at the news bureau office for an update regarding media coverage of the rehired annuitant issue.

He said he followed some of the local and state reports via the web from his California home, and was disappointed by the personal tone of some of the criticism. “During the years I was chancellor, I was able to rely completely on Tom Maki’s integrity,” Outcalt said. “He has always been a very fine steward of state money, assuring it is spent properly. And it has always been my sense that the people who know him, not only on campus but in the community, respect his work.”

Additionally, Outcalt expressed interest in the larger issue of public-employee compensation and whether further erosion is imminent. “Don’t get me wrong. The central issue is overall compensation, and that is certainly worth talking about from a public policy perspective,” the former chancellor said. “(Even) in the 1980s, when hiring faculty, in particular, we were able to attract good candidates because while the salaries were relatively low, the benefits were a little more competitive…  The truth is, however, that you can be a little low on one, but you can’t compete if you’re low on both. That has to be a great concern for the University, moving forward.”

State Journal story talks bigger picture, proposals for new legislation

A Wisconsin State Journal story from Monday (Oct. 24) takes the rehired retirees issue beyond the UW System, pointing out that two of Gov. Scott Walker’s cabinet secretaries also are earning both salaries and pensions. And although Walker has indicated his desire for legislative change as it pertains to rehiring retirees, he said Friday he has no plans to ask his appointees to stop receiving their pensions, the story says. The piece also outlines two separate pieces of legislation pertaining to the practice, one from Rep. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, and the other from Rep. Bob Ziegelbauer, I-Manitowoc. The former would require public employees who return at half time or more to suspend their pension income while they’re working, even as they still would qualify for health benefits. The latter would likewise suspend pension payments for rehired employees working at least half time, and also would increase the required period of employee separation from 30 days to 180 days. Full story: http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_fd17150a-fd82-11e0-81dc-001cc4c002e0.html

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