Do contributions mask unfair cuts?
The Wisconsin State Legislative Fiscal Bureau released a report regarding the impact of increased employee required retirement and health insurance contributions will have on the earnings of government employees throughout the state of Wisconsin. The report only referenced state employees, but the results also apply to county, city and other municipal employees throughout the state. According to the report, someone with annual earnings of $125,000 formerly paid 1.1 percent of their earnings toward retirement and health deductions and now will pay 6.7 percent, an effective income reduction of 5.6 percent. An employee at the $50,000 per year level will go from 2.3 percent to 8.5 percent, an income reduction of 6.5 percent, and an employee at the $25,000 level will go from a contribution of 4.5 percent to 11.3 percent, a reduction of 6.8 percent.
Two issues stand out in these figures: 1) Once again economic injustice is on display in that the lowest paid people carry the biggest economic burden. 2) The numbers indicate a substantial reduction in the purchasing power of government employees across the state. This seems to be the preferred position in our society, as there are many other examples of the same phenomena. This cut in pay may not be very noticeable to someone in the $125K bracket (I suspect there are not many of them in our area,) but the impact on the $25K person will be significant. Some in this bracket will choose to go a bit longer between visits to the barber or hair salon, others will cut back on entertainment; no more going out to the movies and fewer movie rentals, while others may put off that visit to the dentist or orthodontist, along with many other things.
Perhaps this disparity and injustice was just an inadvertent piece of collateral damage in the budget maker’s attempt to mask pay cuts by calling them contributions to retirement and health insurance? Let’s hope that it wasn’t intentional. Either way, it’s the Wisconsin we have become. As my uncle used to say, “The big man gets richer, and the little guy gets it in the neck.”
The question to be answered by each of us should be, “Is this the Wisconsin we want to be?”
Jim Leschke, Rhinelander