MADISON -- Republican lawmakers in Madison are considering raising the minimum retirement age for public workers and changing their payouts, leading to objections from unions.
"It`s clear that this is something that`s really grabbed (officers') attention," said Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association. "Both of these bills represent solutions to problems that simply don't exist."
Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, is seeking to cut the size of some public employees' pension payouts by changing how their benefits are calculated.
Instead of using an average of the three highest-earning years, one of Stroebel's bills would use the five top-earning years. The change would make an employee's payout more representative of their career earnings, Stroebel said.
Another bill would increase the minimum retirement age for most public employees from 55 to 57. Police and firefighters, who can currently retire at age 50, would have to wait until 52.
"So you`re working 30 years. You`re retired for 30 years. In the private sector, we certainly don`t see that at all," Stroebel said.
Democratic lawmakers and union leaders see it as another attack on workers.
"In Wisconsin, it always seems it can get worse," said Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee.
Critics question the need for these changes because the Wisconsin Retirement System is solvent.
"It`s funded very well, and I don`t think we should be messing with it," Larson said.
Stroebel's retirement age proposal wouldn't change the so-called normal retirement age, when workers are eligible for full benefits. It also wouldn't impact anyone age 40 or above right now.
Stroebel said the bills would save the state money -- although a study hasn't been done to determine how much.
"You need to stay ahead of the curve on that, so we can keep it a good system, a sound system, and an affordable system," Stroebel said.
This legislation wouldn't apply to 7,200 City of Milwaukee employees and 3,800 other workers at Milwaukee County because they have their own retirement system.
It would, however, impact teachers at Milwaukee Public Schools, who are part of the Wisconsin Retirement System.
Stroebel is now looking for co-sponsors for both bills, which failed last session.