STUMP » Articles » Scott Walker: The Public Pensions Connection » 26 February 2015, 02:38

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Scott Walker: The Public Pensions Connection  


26 February 2015, 02:38

I am, for the most part, trying to stay out of the betting for the Presidential races, but in a recent comment thread at Althouse, this stood out to me:

Scott Walker having the best enemies ever dates to when he ran for Milwaukee County Executive after a huge pension plan scandal that outraged everybody.

If Milwaukee County liberals would have kept their pension enrichment schemes to simply horrible instead of outright robbery, Walker may merely be a 2nd-term state senator or have moved onto something else entirely.

I know of some bad Milwaukee-related pensions stuff already, but let’s start digging. Scott Walker became Milwaukee County Executive in 2002, due to a special election, as the prior guy resigned.

MILWAUKEE —Milwaukee County Executive Tom Ament announced his retirement Thursday morning at the Milwaukee County Board meeting.

“I have sadly come to the conclusion that I cannot lead this government at this time. Therefore I’m announcing my retirement effective at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2002,” Ament said.

He said that he accepts responsibility for the lump-sum pension payout controversy.

HMMMM, what is this lump-sum pension payout controversy?

It took me a while — this was back in 2002, and a lot of the links I’ve found went dead. But here goes, from a January 2002 piece on the group that pushed for Ament’s recall.

Ament has drawn widespread criticism in the last week over revelations that he could pocket a $2.3 million lump sum payment if he retires in 2008, plus $136,800 a year for the rest of his life, under new pension provisions signed into law by the County Board in November 2000.

Although the pension changes benefit all county employees to some extent, Ament and his top lieutenants — three of whom either crafted the plan or lobbied for it — would profit most.

Ament resigned (and kept his pension… though I think he didn’t get that big lump sum) to avoid the recall.

I want you to think of the timing of these changes. November 2000 was the prior top of the market – many public pensions were in the black, and instead of saying “Phew! We have a little breathing room on contributions!” so many pension plans pissed away those gains on boosting the pension benefits.

Milwaukee was not unique in that respect. California did it, too. So did Texas. So did lots of places. Free money! Stock market goes up and up forever!

Then 2001 occurred.

Here ya go:

So by the beginning of 2002, it was pretty clear that the money wouldn’t be there for all those new goodies.

Out went Ament, in came Walker.

Thus the saga began.

More later.

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