County Executive Abele: State takeover of pension system one option to consider

AFSCME pushed back on the proposal
Posted at 10:28 PM, Mar 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-16 06:01:19-04

MILWAUKEE -- Errors in pension payouts have cost Milwaukee County tens of millions.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele believes it is time to throw out the current system and possibly have the state take it over. Abele’s proposal would mean a new investigation into the county's pension system, which will likely uncover more payment mistakes.

Part of the problem according to Abele, is the 180 different pension benefit plans in Milwaukee County, many that still require hand calculation. In comparison the state's pension plans only has four.

"A couple of years ago we found out there was 200 retirees that were overpaid over $20 million," Abele said.

"So, who's on the hook with all that money then?" asked TODAY'S TMJ4 Reporter Julia Fello.

Someone would have to be on the hook for that money. Abele said if the county overpays it has a choice to make.

"If we've overpaid you know we have decide whether we want to recoup what's been overpaid and stop it going forward if we've underpaid then we have to make it whole," Abele said.

AFSCME pushed back on the proposal, arguing the union deserves to be part of deliberations.

AFSCME put out the following statement:

AFSCME thinks some county leaders are being awfully quick to jettison local responsibility over the Milwaukee County Retirement System. County employees, retirees, and taxpayers deserve full engagement from local leaders, and we deserve a seat at the table.

Instead of rushing to the state, we encourage county leaders to demand answers to some pretty basic questions – like why was the retirement plan’s former director given a substantial raise just days before she was forced to resign?

We strongly encourage the county to make sure front line workers are fully involved in the discussion about what needs to be done to resolve the challenges faced by this system.

We note that the county executive promises to pursue change in a thoughtful way, and that he intends to bring together stakeholders to create a path forward. Obviously, our members are key stakeholders and we fully expect a voice in these discussions.

Passing the buck to the state will only dilute the control that citizens of Milwaukee County – and that includes county employees -- will have in determining the best way forward.

With so many unknowns right now, county resources should be used to fully diagnose what is going on and ensure that Milwaukee County honors its contractual obligations to those who served or continue to serve the public.

-Rick Badger, AFSCME Council 32 Executive Director


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