This Just In ...

Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.

Dispelling the Myth: State Rep. Kevin Petersen (R- Waupaca)

Since Governor Walker proposed his budget adjustment bill, I have been besieged by an orchestrated avalanche of e-mail and phone calls riddled with outright misinformation.

While some of the email letters have been written personally, most are form letters distributed by unions to members, and then signed and forwarded on to me.

Concurrently, the unions are attempting to spread the same propaganda to the general public. Every tactic has been tried, from claiming the bill cuts salaries to asserting it decreases benefits.

Following are random comments, copied verbatim from e-mail I received, reflecting the misinformation spread by various unions: 

"I cannot believe what Governor Walker is trying to do! I am a mother and a public employee and can't believe the pay loss and benefits we are going to lose with this new bill." 

"Not only will you be freezing my wages, but you will also be taking away 11% of my income."

"We have been drastically underpayed [sic] for our education and have clung to our benfits [sic] because it is our only reward."

From the comments above, union bosses are portraying stories of financial peril to their members and the public. I will leave the decision of that to my readers and what your family budgets have had to overcome in the last couple of years.

Petersen's E-Press dated February 11, 2011 discussed critical financial decisions that must be made to ensure Wisconsin's current and future solvency. Facts and figures were laid out illustrating how state employees are being asked to contribute 5.8% of their pension and 12.6% of their healthcare premium costs.

Here is an example of how this budget adjustment bill will affect a state worker making 50,000 per year. (Note: $50,000 is the base salary; it does not include state provided fringe benefits including healthcare, pension, sick days, vacation, etc.) Pension contribution of 5.8% = $2,900.00.

Increased healthcare premium contribution from 6% to 12.6% according to figures derived from a Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo dated February 17th, 2011 will raise a state worker's family plan healthcare cost from $89 to $208 per month. Those already making contributions greater 12.6% will not see an increase in costs. Healthcare cost increase of $119 dollars per month times 12 months = $1,428.

Dispelling the myth - reality is - the $4,328 state employees will contribute from their $50,000 base pay is being spent on their personal healthcare policy and retirement. For families that have trouble with this payment, the budget adjustment bill also allows for union dues to no longer be collected from their pay checks. It will be up to the individual if he or she can afford the average dues of $700 to $1,000 per year.

Deducting $700 from the annual cost of $4328 leaves the balance of about $3600 which will be an approximate deduction of $300 per month from the individuals monthly pay.

The 16 furlough days endured by state workers during the past 2 years will no longer be mandated. That equates to $1500 per year, or $125 per month added back into a $50,000 income. Therefore, the entire loss to the employee's current income would be about $175 per month.

According to the
AFSCME website: "workers who are union members earn 30% more than non union workers". Additionally, this link taken from the Department of Public Instruction Website lists minimum / maximum and average teacher pay and compensation for all school districts in Wisconsin.

I would like to thank everyone who stopped by, emailed, and called my office offering feedback in support, and opposition, on the budget adjustment bill. In the end, my vote was not based on 15,000 people chanting and yelling outside my office. Instead, my vote of "yes" was based on the wording in the bill and majority of citizens in my district and throughout the state calling for a balanced budget.

What do you think about this issue? Click here and send an email with your thoughts.


Kevin Petersen
State Representative
40th Assembly District

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