U.S. Reps. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Kind and U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl today lauded a rule modification by the Treasury Department that prevents massive retirements among Wisconsin public safety employees.
"This is a huge relief for communities across Wisconsin," Kohl said. "This keeps our police officers and fire fighters on the job and allows them to determine when they are ready to retire."
"The Treasury Department has listened and done right by Wisconsin's police officers and fire fighters," said Baldwin. "We owe it to our public safety officers and their families to ensure a fair retirement that honors the dangers they face at work," she added.
"This is a big win for Wisconsin," said Kind. "I've been working to ensure a fair retirement for our public safety officers and their families for some time and with the support of Rep. Baldwin, even introduced a bill to fix this issue. I'm pleased that Treasury was able to resolve this issue quickly and we did not have to move forward with a legislative fix."
Unlike other states, all of Wisconsin's state employees -- including public safety workers -- are covered under the same retirement system. Currently, Wisconsin's public safety employees, such as police officers and fire fighters, can retire at age 53 with 25 years of service or at age 54 with less than 25 years of service.
Public safety officials were concerned that Treasury regulations going into effect January 1, 2013 would set a single normal retirement age (NRA) somewhere between the ages of 55 and 62 for all workers within the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS). Because of the possible change, many public safety workers were contemplating retirement before year's end.
"This decision will ensure safer communities because hundreds of officers who may have been forced to retire prematurely will now remain actively serving," said Dane County Sheriff David Mahoney. "I wholeheartedly thank Reps. Baldwin and Kind, and Sen. Kohl, for their direct involvement in providing for a safer Wisconsin," Mahoney said.
Kohl and Baldwin have been working to resolve this issue for many months, culminating in a letter sent to the Treasury Department last month urging a quick resolution of the issue. In addition, Kind authored and introduced legislation in the House of Representative in October of 2011 to address this issue legislatively.
Specifically, Treasury agreed with an analysis by the Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds that the new regulations should not apply to WRS because employees do not receive retirement benefit while they are still working. Secondly, the Treasury Department also recognized the unique nature of Wisconsin's retirement system allowing for the current retirement ages for public safety employees. Finally, Treasury announced that it would delay the effective date for state and local government plans until no earlier than January 1, 2015.