Mitt Romney LOVES Scott Walker … and he’s completely wrong about the Wisconsin Retirement System
“Governor Walker is, in my opinion, an excellent governor, and I believe that he is right to stand up for the citizens of Wisconsin, and to insist that those people who are working in the public sector unions have rights to effect their wages, but that these benefits and retiree benefits have fallen out of line with the capacity of the state to pay them, and so I support the governor in his effort to rein in the excesses that have permeated the public sector union and government negotiations over the years.”
Putting aside the hilarity that was Mitt Romney “campaigning” in Wisconsin while actually being physically located in the state of Texas (Romney’s comments were made at a tele-town hall), he’s actually completely wrong about the ability of the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) to keep up with benefits owed to participants.
The Wisconsin Retirement System is one of the most well-managed and well-funded public employee retirement systems in the country. According to this report, as of December 2009 the WRS held assets totaling $72.8 billion, and the State Investment Fund’s returns “consistently exceeded performance benchmarks.”
What’s more, according to Boston College’s public plans database (data from 2009), the Wisconsin Retirement System is one of only a few public employee pension funds in the country that is considered “fully funded,” with Kil Huh, director of research at the Pew Center on the States, commenting, “These [top] states have been exhibiting the financial discipline in order to pay those annual bills year over year.”
While I understand it’s en vogue for Republicans/conservatives to rail against the “excesses” of public employees benefits, their rhetoric simply doesn’t match the reality, at least not here in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Retirement System is one of the most well-managed, well-funded public employee pension systems in the country, and I’d argue it’s a model for what other states can do right, as opposed to being something for conservatives to denigrate.
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