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Broken Promises: Scott Walker's Phony Pension Claims

Press Release

Location: Milwaukee, WI

Walker Says he got the Job Done on Pension Reform, But Eight Years Later Pension Problems Still Plague Milwaukee County

Since Walker Failed as County Executive, How Can Voters Trust Him as Governor?

Appearing before the Wisconsin Counties Association Annual Conference and Marketplace today, Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett discussed pension reform, and exposed Scott Walker's ridiculous claim that he reformed the Milwaukee County pension system.

"Everyone in this room understands the need to talk honestly about pension reform and legacy costs," Tom said to the crowd of county officials from every corner of Wisconsin. "I've secured significant pension changes as mayor, and I will fight for important reforms as governor. At the same time, Scott Walker is travelling across Wisconsin saying he got the job done, but he's not telling the truth -- eight years later the crisis he promised to fix is still costing taxpayers their hard-earned money."

Tom continued: "Since Scott Walker's real pension reform record is one of phony claims and failure, how can the people of Wisconsin trust him as governor?"

As mayor, Tom secured higher employee pension contributions for new city hires. And in his specific, detailed plan to Put Madison on a Diet that will save Wisconsin taxpayers more than $1.1 billion every year, Tom proposes real state reforms like eliminating pension bonuses for politicians and top officials, and keeping public pension compensation in line with the private sector. These reforms will make state government more accountable and responsive to the people of Wisconsin.

Conversely, Walker's failure to deliver the change he promised reveals the phoniness of his reform claims.

Massive backdrop payments: Perhaps no other issue symbolizes the Milwaukee County pension crisis more than the exorbitant backdrop payments delivered to county employees. Yet eight years later under Scott Walker's Administration, enormous backdrop payments funded by Milwaukee County taxpayers continue. Among the most recent examples:

June 2010: $3.3 million in county pension backdrop payments issued.
July 2010: $1.3 million in county pension backdrop payments issued.
August 2010: $2.7 million in county pension backdrop payments issued.
"Substantially Noncontributory:" This is how Milwaukee County's own website describes the employee contributions to county pensions. In fact, the county's own documents show how employee contributions to their pensions are optional, and how the County has contributed about $300 for every $1 dollar from employees. On the other hand, as a result of Tom's negotiations as mayor, new city employees now contribute more to their pensions. Walker says as governor he will require state workers to pay the employee share of their pensions, but he hasn't brought that reform to the county -- and he doesn't even pay that contribution himself as county executive.

Reckless fiscal mismanagement: In multiple budgets, Scott Walker underfunded the pension account by millions of dollars. When the county pension fund suffered $486 million in market losses during the 2008 national economic collapse, Walker borrowed $400 million to cover the pension shortfalls. In addition to the principal, Walker's borrowing includes $220 million in interest, and a $2 million fee to Wall Street banks. Despite this rampant borrowing, the county's pension fund remains underfunded.

"Scott Walker talks a lot about getting the job done, but a closer look at his record of failed leadership reveals just how false that statement is," said Tom. "The people of Wisconsin want straight talk and honest plans they can trust, not phony claims of reform and a record of broken promises."

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