By Ruth Conniff
Wis. Gov. Scott Walker used a controversial veto tool to deprive some public sector workers of their pensions.
When he signed the budget bill into law on June 26, Walker altered a section that dealt with how public employees are vested into the state retirement system.
By crossing out 116 consecutive words and then drastically altering the meaning of the subsequent clause, Walker made it so that state employees are no longer vested in the pension system until they have worked for the state for five years, instead of being partially vested immediately.
This kind of veto in Wisconsin has been called the “Vanna White Veto” or the “Frankenstein Veto.”
The voters in Wisconsin approved an amendment to the state’s constitution back in 2009 to prevent abuses by governors wielding a wild veto pen.
It prohibited governors from “creating a new sentence by combining parts of two or more sentences” of any bill or from creating a new word by “rejecting individual letters in the words” of the bill.
But look what Walker did to Section 1156k of the budget bill.
That section originally set up five tiers of partial vesting for employees working for the state for less than five years.
But with creative deletions, Walker got rid of all five tiers.
The final clause originally read: “If the participant has at least 4 years of creditable service, but less than 5 years of creditable service, the annuity amount under par. (e) shall be reduced by 10 percent.”
Walker changed that to read: “If the participant has less than 5 years of creditable service, the annuity amount under par. (e) shall be 0.”
When Walker signed the budget, he released a statement about his vetoes. On this particular one, he said: “I object to this provision as it is administratively difficult and expensive to implement.” And he said the loss in pension benefits would be “relatively modest.”
Shawn Smith, the communications and legislation director of the Department of Employee Trust Funds, clarified the change: “The vesting veto means that members will not be able to take out the employer’s share of the contributions if they are not fully vested. They will, however, be able to take out their own employee contributions plus interest earnings on their share, at any time.”
Ed Sadlowski, a staff representative for AFSCME Council 40, was taken aback by Walker’s veto.
“This creates a two-tiered system and second-class citizens," he said. "It’s a heartless assault, and more thievery of working people.”
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "Minn. Republicans Ruin July 4 Weekend.
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