More questions than answers when it comes to public employees double and triple-dipping

There is a story out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin that many conservatives, and frankly plenty of others, will find troubling.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, there are 32 city employees engaged in what is essentially a triple dip of the City of Milwaukee tax roll for salaries and benefits.

The way this works is these employees retire draw a city pension, then are hired by the city in some other capacity so they’re being paid again, plus they’re earning credits toward a second pension.

Hence the phrase “triple dip.”

According to the article, it’s the only place this is happening in the public sector, the only place it is allowed anyway.

Anywhere. In the country.

The article mentions that the state of Wisconsin and Milwaukee county apparently have a mechanism whereby if someone retires with a pension and is re-hired for some other purpose, the pension checks are suspended and additional credits to the employees pension fund are added for the additional time.

Not in Milwaukee apparently.

My conservative friends were outraged.

So was I, at least when I first read it.

Then I thought about it. What if I worked for Wal-Mart (God forbid). I retire at 65, get my pension. When I retire from Wal-Mart, I get bored and decide to go work for a consulting firm.

Wal-Mart hires my consulting firm. If I’m working full-time for this consulting firm now I’m drawing a pension and working for a company who is working for Wal-Mart.

This isn’t dissimilar from the scenario in Milwaukee.

Take an Alderman for example. If he worked in the private sector and retired, he’d be eligible for his pension or 401K or whatever he got from his job.

When he takes his seat as an alderman, he’s now being paid by the city and eligible for its pension plan.

The only difference in that scenario is that only one of those pensions is funded by the tax payers.

We can agree, I think, that public employees deserve to have pensions like many private sector employees.What needs to be determined, though, is whether or not you think it’s right for someone to receive two pensions from essentially the same main source.

Intuitively, the answer is no.

On the other hand, one of the employees mentioned in the article is a former police captain. She’s drawing a police pension,  but was then hired as the executive director of the Elections Commission.

Obviously her responsibilities are entirely different, she’s working in an entirely different capacity, and even admitted she would wouldn’t have taken the job if she couldn’t also continue to get her police pension.

How different, really, is that scenario from the one I offered earlier with Wal-Mart?

With that being said, I think the government ought to be doing a better job as stewards of tax payer dollars. Even the perception of employees taking advantage of the system undermines the credibility of that system.

The article does note that there is an effort to prevent this from happening in the future by changing the law, a sign that the local officials there intend to make a change.

While I am less outraged than perhaps some, I do think the government has to be beyond reproach when it comes to the operations, particularly financial, of its many departments.

It makes more sense to, as the state and county apparently does, hold pension checks for re-hired employees while adding credits to their history.

They still get the great pension and awesome benefits for a public employee, just in a system that makes financial sense for government and for tax payers.

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