'Double dipping,' insurance measures adopted

2013-05-22T08:45:00Z 'Double dipping,' insurance measures adoptedBy MATTHEW DEFOUR | Wisconsin State Journal | 608-252-6144 Journal Times

The Legislature’s budget committee Tuesday approved a measure meant to discourage public employees from collecting a pension and a paycheck at the same time.

It also approved changes to the state employee health insurance program.

The Joint Finance Committee mostly adopted Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal to prohibit full-time or nearly full-time employees from collecting a pension, known as “double dipping.”

Retirees who want to return to public employment would have to wait 75 days, up from 30 days.

The committee modified Walker’s proposal so that public employees who work more than 1,392 hours a year wouldn’t be allowed to collect a pension from the Wisconsin Retirement System.

Walker had set the threshold at employees who work two-thirds of full-time, but committee chairman Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said school district administrators complained that the provision would have a negative effect on hiring teachers, who work about 1,440 hours a year.

The new rules would apply to public employees who retire after the effective date of the budget.

A Legislative Audit Bureau report found that over a five-year period, state agencies and the University of Wisconsin System hired 2,783 retirees who continued to collect a state pension.

Local governments over a 15-month period hired 2,599 retirees who collected a state pension.

The committee also agreed to charge state employees who smoke a $50 monthly premium surcharge.

It also approved Walker’s proposal to give state employees the option to select a high-deductible health insurance plan and health savings accounts beginning in 2015.

The new option is expected to save the state about $6.87 million annually, but a Legislative Fiscal Bureau report said the proposal could actually cost the state $32 million annually if new employees join the state health system and the state makes contributions to their accounts. The committee required an actuarial study of the provision.

The budget committee also:

• Backed a provision to let public safety workers collectively bargain over their health insurance premiums but not other costs of their plan. They retained their collective bargaining rights two years ago while all other public workers had them taken away.

• Adopted a proposal by Rep. John Klenke, R-Green Bay, to study the feasibility of excluding spouses and domestic partners who have health insurance through an employer from state health insurance plans.

— The Associated Press

contributed to this report.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015 Journal Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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