WRS News Online

Tarna Hunter, Legislative Liason
Tarna Hunter

Legislative Update
by Tarna Hunter, Director of Strategic Engagement and Government Relations

In February Gov. Walker released the 2017-2019 executive state budget, a proposal of how the state should manage expenses for the next two years. The budget bills, called 2017 Assembly Bill 64 and 2017 Senate Bill 30, are currently before the Joint Committee on Finance. The JCF has spent the last few months reviewing the proposed budget and will continue to review and make changes over the next few weeks. After JCF makes its recommended changes, the budget goes to the assembly and the senate for further review and, ultimately, back to the governor for signature. The governor can also veto the bill in whole or in part.

As proposed, the budget currently contains a few changes that affect the benefit programs administered by the Department of Employee Trust Funds. The budget modifies the Chapter 40 domestic partnership program, including discontinuing allowing employees to enter into new domestic partnerships after the effective date of the bill and eliminating health insurance coverage for domestic partners, effective January 1, 2018.

In addition to the above provisions, the budget anticipates the Group Insurance Board will transition to a self-insured health benefit model. The projected savings from the move to self-insurance are $60 million (in General Purpose Revenue) over the biennium. For more detail, see Health Insurance Update.

Other legislation includes a proposal under development that would increase the minimum retirement age by two years for protective occupation members and by five years for all other members.

Currently, general employees, teachers, elected officials and executive employees are eligible to retire at age 55; the bill would change that to age 60. Protective employees, such as police and firefighters, are currently eligible to retire at age 50; the bill would change that to age 52. The proposal would also change the formula method for calculating a WRS retirement benefit — basing it on the average of the five highest years of earnings instead of the three highest years. These changes would only apply to members hired after the effective date of the bill.

ETF's Government Relations web page is a great way to stay informed about state and federal legislation that may affect WRS pension, insurance and other benefit programs. In addition to laws passed by legislative session, we also list legislative proposals, laws and proposals from previous sessions, recent ETF action items and benefit news.

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