Bill would change retirement age for Wisconsin public employees

2013-03-17T00:00:00Z 2013-03-17T08:12:31Z Bill would change retirement age for Wisconsin public employeesBy STEVEN VERBURG | Wisconsin State Journal La Crosse Tribune

MADISON — The minimum retirement age for public employees would increase by two years under a bill proposed by a state lawmaker who said the change would reflect increasing life spans and later retirement ages in general while possibly strengthening the pension system.

Democrats and a prominent retiree group were skeptical, and the state Department of Employee Trust Funds said a thorough actuarial study was needed to make sure the change wouldn’t cause unintended problems.

Most municipal workers, state employees and teachers in the Wisconsin Retirement System must work until they are 65 years old to collect full benefits, but they can retire at age 55 with reduced pensions.

Under a bill circulated by Rep. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, the minimum age would rise to 57. For police and firefighters, it would increase two years to 52.

“(Current laws) have been in place for many years and have not changed to reflect increased longevity, normal life work span or the changing demographics of our state,” Stroebel said Friday in an email sent to state legislators in an effort to find co-sponsors.

Stroebel’s bill would affect only people who are younger than 40, so nobody would be affected for more than a decade.

The average retirement age is 60.

The pension system has been lauded by the Pew Center on the States and others who ranked the system as the best in the nation because it is fully funded.

“He wants to address a problem that doesn’t exist,” said Jim Palmer, president of a group representing pension system members.

But Stroebel pointed to a 2012 memorandum in which ETF staff told him that while early retirees receive reduced pensions, state law doesn’t reduce them enough to completely cover costs.

“The system does take a hit every time there is an early retirement,” Stroebel, who is co-chairman of the Legislature’s Joint Survey Committee on Retirement Systems, said in an interview. “We value our trust fund greatly, and we value its solvency.”

The ETF memo also emphasized an actuarial study was needed to know how the change would affect the complex retirement system.

For example, adjusting the retirement age could increase costs for taxpayers because experienced workers would stay on the payroll longer. Or it could mean injured or ill employees would continue working, leading to higher costs in disability claims, especially among police and firefighters.

“(It also) could degrade the overall policy aim of maintaining public safety at a high level,” the department memo said.

Terese Berceau, a Madison Democrat on the retirement committee, said she was wary of reducing flexibility for workers deciding when to retire.

“People do age differently,” Berceau said. “There are some people who don’t age well, and they may have great difficulty working longer.”

The system serves 570,000 employees and retirees. Benefits average about $23,000 a year. They are calculated based on years worked, salary and fund investment income.

About 75 percent of costs are paid by investment proceeds, with the rest coming from contributions made by government employers and employees.

Copyright 2015 La Crosse Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(7) Comments

  1. ericalevi
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    ericalevi - July 01, 2013 4:03 am
    According to a set of recent reports, increasingly more people approaching retirement are ill-prepared for it. Most are not even aware of the true expenses that lay ahead of them. As a result, the tradition of leaving a financial legacy for you kids is quickly becoming a quaint custom of history. Get a cash advance to help pay for your retirement costs at
  2. CJ
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    CJ - March 22, 2013 1:59 pm
    Why would they want to retire considering after/including just their first year of service they average a 33 hour week between time off for vacation, sick leave, personal and legal holidays.............sign me up most would say for sure!
  3. union conservative
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    union conservative - March 17, 2013 2:31 pm
    At least those public employee are working to retirement instead of taking the easy way out and relying on the federal gov't for a DISABILITY check every month like someone else we Mr Pheasant!!!! You Mr. Pheasant are a pathetic speciman in the general publics book. It was proven during the mayorial race in La better hope a republican (like Reagan) with a spine never gets elected president because you will have to look over your should all the time to protect yourself from being stripped of your free taxpayer funded disability check. So give me a break!!!!
  4. pheasant
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    pheasant - March 17, 2013 2:17 pm
    More TRUTH? Forgotten?

    "Benefits average about $23,000 a year"? Why? They don't tell you that workers have met requirment after 10years. So if they move on to something else they still receive a retirement check. Plus Part-time Librarians for example receive full time retirement benefits. Among many other classifications that do as well. Duh?
  5. pheasant
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    pheasant - March 17, 2013 2:13 pm
    "...ranked the system as the best in the nation because it is fully funded"? But nary a word why it is Federally Funded. Because the 'Alternative view' is the WRS is funded because ALL of us have been sending double digit percentage of their gross pay for retirement. Plus they do not tell you that the contribution ranks on the top of the pile compared. One sided, no alternative reporting!
  6. pheasant
    Report Abuse
    pheasant - March 17, 2013 12:41 am
  7. pheasant
    Report Abuse
    pheasant - March 17, 2013 12:41 am
    1- "About 75 percent of costs are paid by investment proceeds, with the rest coming from contributions made by government employers and employees"? Ha, ha, ha, ha! For more than two decades people like Janet Rossiter spoke for a good portion of that time. In regard to the contribution of School Employees as employee/employer? Give me a break! Those like Roositer knew full well that was a lie. Because both portion were paid by ALL Taxpayers for those WRS recipients. Until Walker told the truth and adjusted the contribution back to the original/intended true employee/employer split. 50% of private sector employee have NO such program at all. The remaining 50% average less than 4% compared to the double digit percentage Government Workers received over two decades. Also who retires at 55, let alone 50? IN the real World. Cops/fireman holler dangerous profession. But our local Farmers are shredded and killed at a much higher rate.
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