WEST BEND — County officials are so concerned about a possible new state mandate that they will consider passing an advisory resolution when they meet Wednesday night.
The “new mandate” idea, being circulated at the state capital, would create an option for county jail staff to become protective status employees in the
Wisconsin Retirement System. The proposal at the state level is called Assembly Bill 5 and Senate Bill 5. Waukesha County officials are also working to let local state lawmakers know of their concern. The Washington County advisory resolution calls for the completion of an actuarial study before the bill becomes law to ensure that creating the opt-in for county jail staff would not negatively impact county taxpayers or current WRS enrollees.
Here’s the deal… the Wisconsin Retirement System classifies some government jobs as “protective occupations.” The classification is intended to give government employees who are responsible for public safety an option to retire earlier than other government employees. It generally includes police and firefighters. That option to retire early comes at additional cost to the taxpayers. After all, if a police officer is retiring at 55, the taxpayers have to pay her retirement while also paying for her replacement to fill the job. It is an expensive perk, but one that we have chosen to extend in recognition of the importance and physical demands of the job.
The bill referenced in the article is being sponsored by Republicans and would add jailers to the list of protective occupations and allow them to retire early – at taxpayers’ expense. Fortunately, I don’t see any of my representatives sponsoring the bill, but there are some traditionally conservative legislators on the list.
This bill is bad for two reasons. First, it will be expensive. Second, there is a pervasive shortage of jailers in the state. Allowing a swath of them to retire early will only exacerbate the problem. While being a jailer is an honorable and necessary job, the taxpayers should not be finding an early retirement perk for it.