A Republican legislator said Wednesday he plans to introduce legislation to prevent public employees from retiring and then returning to work at that same job while receiving retirement benefits.
Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, wants to reintroduce legislation that keeps workers from engaging in this practice officially called “utilizing rehired annuitants,” but commonly known as “double dipping,” according to Cowles’ spokesperson Jason Mugnaini.
The bill was originally proposed in 2011 when a number of Republican state representatives and senators collaborated to introduce the bill. According to the Legislature’s website, the Assembly passed the bill last session 67-26, but the Senate did not vote on the bill before the session ended.
According to the proposed bill, if public employees retire and are rehired for the same position, they must work at least half of what the state considers full-time employment, and retirement pensions must end before they restart work.
Gov. Scott Walker proposed in his state budget the state require a waiting period of 30 days before a retired employee could be rehired, Mugnaini said.
Cowles is calling for Walker and his administration to remove double dipping from the budget because the budget does not go into effect until this summer, according to Mugnaini.
Mugnaini said this is too long of a wait to implement changes on this issue.
In an email to The Badger Herald, Cowles also said disagreed with is the length of the wait period for retired workers to resume employment at the same position. Cowles said he wants the wait period to be hiked up from 30 days to 75.
“I have always felt that policy decisions should be deliberated in the Legislature,” Cowles said. “I also feel that as a standalone bill the legislation could be adopted sooner than it could be as a budget provision.”
Mark Lamkins, spokesperson for the Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds, said in an email he also supported increasing the waiting period to 75 days before retirees can resume their previous work. He said he believes this period of time is necessary to ensure public workers have “full and complete” hiatus from their service.
According to Susan Paddock, a University of Wisconsin professor of professional development and applied studies and director of the Wisconsin Certified Public Manager program, opponents of the practice of double dipping say the system’s goals have shifted.
Although it was intended to benefit employees, the system morphed and now allows these same retirees to take advantage of it, she said in an email to The Badger Herald.
While many legislators support the bill to stop double dipping, Paddock said she does not.
“I personally favor agencies being allowed to use rehired annuitants, as a way to bridge to a new employee, to preserve important expertise that is not available or to access that expertise that is needed on a short-term or urgent basis,” Paddock said.
Not only do most state agencies allow rehired annuitants, they also depend on them, Paddock added.
“Supporters would be those who see this as a waste of state dollars, when in fact it may be a more effective and efficient use of state dollars,” Paddock said.