Green Bay Senator Warns That Wisconsin Retirement System Could Be Privatized

Dave Hansen Says He's Worried That Legislature Might Try To Make Some Public Workers Buy Annuities

Sen. Dave Hansen, left. Photo: Wisconsin AFL-CIO (CC-BY-NC-SA)

State Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, is warning that Wisconsin’s state employee retirement system is at risk of being privatized.

Hansen worries that a move may arise in the Legislature to at least partly privatize the system. He says Gov. Scott Walker’s budget floated the idea of letting, or forcing, some state employees – most likely newer employees – buy private annuities.

“I know the governor has finally come out and said we have the best fund in the country,” said Hansen. “So if he’s saying that now, he should keep his hands off of what’s in place because it is working.”

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Hansen is referring to a 2012 study by the Employee Trust Fund. The fund oversees the retirement system, so in effect it was issuing a report on itself.

Jack Norman, an independent consultant for the Wisconsin Coalition for Retirement Security, says because of fees, people in a private fund would most likely have smaller monthly payments. Jack Norman says there is no active movement in the Legislature to change state pensions.

“It would be wonderful if it never gets going,” said Norman. “But particularly because the governor put this into his first budget, he said, ‘Let’s check this out, let’s see if we should go down this road.’ And he put money in that budget for a study to see what it would be. We got a lot of great numbers out of that study because the budget shows it’s a bad idea.”

Norman and Hansen say a move to privatization would harm a woman’s monthly retirement benefit more than a man’s, because on average women live longer than men and therefore would get a smaller monthly payout.

Editor’s Note: Employees of Wisconsin Public Radio are members of the Wisconsin Retirement System.