Letters to the legislature

2019

ACE Letter to JCOER on Compensation Plan elements 2019 11 26 – click here

2017

February 22, 2017 – ACE is a member of the Wisconsin Coalition of Annuitants – see the WCOA letter – click here

2015

ACE Legislative Testimony on civil service changes proposed in SB28 (10/2015)

2015 – Letters to Members of the Joint Finance Committee

May 14, 2015

Dear Senator/Representative:

In the 2015-2017 budget request, Governor Scott Walker proposes that the Office of State Employment Relations be incorporated into rather than administratively attached to the Department of Administration (DOA).

The Association of Career Employees (ACE) is very concerned about the potential loss of political independence overall for state personnel policies and in particular about the changes in relation to the administrator of Merit Recruitment and Selection. We believe this is a power grab by the Executive Branch, and the Legislature should be concerned about the potential for the Executive Branch to drastically change the composition of the state workforce as each administration takes office.

Under the current law, the administrator of the Division of Merit Recruitment and Selection must be nominated by the Governor after a competitive process, and with the advice and consent of the Senate, appointed for a five-year term. Under the budget bill, the director of the Bureau of Merit Recruitment and Selection under DOA would serve at the pleasure of the Secretary of DOA, with no involvement by the Legislature. The bill would delete the current selection and hiring process for the administrator of the Division of Merit Recruitment and Selection.

The process under the current law was designed to assure that the director of the Division of Merit Recruitment and Selection was hired for merit and fitness. This person is responsible for assuring the rest of civil service employees are also hired for merit and fitness. If the primary person responsible for overseeing civil service hiring is now an at-will employee, this is likely to compromise the entire civil service system.

In addition, another problem is also created by the change in structure. The position becomes an unclassified bureau director under the budget bill. Bureau director positions have been included in the classified civil service. This change sets a precedent for agencies to potentially request that other bureau directors be unclassified. If the Legislature does approve the move of OSER to DOA, which would undercut the independence of the civil service and the authority of the legislature, this position should be created as a classified position rather than an unclassified position within DOA. This change would assure that the person is hired for merit and fitness and also that this position is not created substantially differently than other bureau directors in state service.

Sincerely,

Sally Drew
President

May 18, 2015

Dear Senator/Representative:

In the 2015-2017 budget request, Gov. Scott Walker is proposing that state employees be offered a $2,000-a-year incentive to opt out of the state’s health insurance program. The Association of Career Employees urges you to oppose the proposed provision. This is poor policy. The state’s health insurance program needs to have a strong base of employees, including employees of all ages, in order to remain sustainable.
In addition, there are a number of reasons to believe that the policy may increase costs. Deloitte Consulting analyzed the potential impact of the opt-out program and concluded that the financial impact of the incentive program would range from costing $4 million more a year to saving the state $18 million a year. “An opt-out may create savings,” the company found. “However, if only a small number of employees opt out, this may create an additional cost to the state.”

As of last summer, the state health insurance plan covered about 62,300 state employees and their families. About 15 percent of state employees currently opt out, generally because they have coverage under a spouse’s health insurance plan elsewhere (5%) or because both spouses are employed by the state (10%). According to Tarna Hunter, Legislative Liaison, Department of Employee Trust Funds, if an employee is covered under state health insurance under a family plan, then that employee would not be eligible to receive the $2,000. Employees who opt out of state insurance would still need to have insurance or pay a penalty as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

It seems unlikely that a large number of employees will opt-out since 1) they may have difficulty finding comparable coverage elsewhere and 2) the federal penalty for not having any insurance will gradually grow larger. Thus, instead of saving money, the opt-out proposal could well lead to increased costs for the citizens of the state.

Sincerely,

Sally Drew
President

2013

May 7, 2013

Dear Senator/Representative:

The Association of Career Employees is an association of active and retired state employees.  For the last 30 years, ACE has advocated for effective state government made possible through merit-based civil service practices, appropriate employee benefits, and competitive compensation for non-represented employees.

ACE is concerned about the proposal in the Governor’s Budget that requires the Group Insurance Board (GIB) to establish an optional high deductible health insurance plan and health savings account beginning January 2015.

The well respected firm Deloitte examined medical cost containment strategies adopted by various governments, and presented a report to the GIB earlier this year.  This study was commissioned by the WI Department of Employee Trust Funds, and looked specifically at governments who had implemented these high deductible plans together with health savings accounts.

Indiana, Minnesota, Manitowoc County WI, and the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan all offer High Deductible Health Plans with Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s).  However, none of them have achieved the cost savings accomplished by Wisconsin’s managed competition approach.  Wisconsin’s health insurance costs for state employees have increased 4.1% below the national average trend, lower than any of these other governmental units.

There are significant risks associated with the High Deductible/HSA approach, including the impact of adverse selection on the other insurance options, the impact on retirees, and the federal requirements that HSA’s cover services currently excluded from WI’s state employee health insurance plan.

We strongly urge you to remove this provision from the budget, so the proposal can receive the scrutiny appropriate to such a major change to the currently successful cost containment approach used for state employee health insurance.

Sincerely,

Sally Drew
President

2011

September 14, 2011

Representative Peter Barca
P.O. Box 8952
Madison,  WI  53708

Dear Representative Barca:

The Association of Career Employees (ACE) is an association that has served state employees since the mid-1970’s.  We advocate for Wisconsin’s civil service system and for adequate compensation and benefits for non-represented employees.

ACE is very concerned about the potential for the upcoming compensation plan to supersede provisions of statutory civil service law.  As part of the budget, §230.12(1)(h) Wis. Stats. was added to the Chapter “State Employment Relations.”  This new language would appear to allow provisions of the compensation plan to supersede the provisions of existing law.

This would undermine the constitutional vesting of legislative authority in the senate and assembly.  The new provision may also conflict with another statutory provision that directs the Joint Committee on Employment Relations to introduce legislation in order to implement any provisions of the compensation plan which change existing law or existing fringe benefits.

We hope that the Joint Committee on Employment Relations will make clear to the Office of State Employment Relations that JCOER expects the upcoming compensation plan to follow current law.  We further hope that if provisions of the compensation plan are presented that conflict with civil service statutes, JCOER will remove those provisions from the plan.  If JCOER supports these changes, they should be submitted as proposed legislation so they can go through the normal bill process and be approved by the full legislature.

Thank you for your consideration.

Bob Jordan
Executive Director

2011 – Mailed to Members of Wisconsin State Senate

February 15, 2011

Dear Senator:

The Association of Career Employees (ACE) has served as a voice for civil service employees for nearly 30 years. ACE is not a union but works to insulate the civil service from political involvement in retaining and compensating employees.

The Wisconsin civil service system celebrated its 100th year in 2005 and has a long tradition of improvement and modification following processes involving discussion and participation by all three branches of government and comment from the public. Union representation of state employees has developed alongside the civil service and played an important role in its history. While civil service provides citizens with equal access to state jobs and insulates employees from politically motivated hiring and job loss, union representation allows employees to collectively negotiate for fair compensation, working conditions and due process.

In his recent budget adjustment bill, Scott Walker claims to leave the civil service structure intact, but the scope of impact on civil service principles and processes is breath-taking. It affects state, municipal, county, and school district employees. The proposal includes major decreases in compensation along with the elimination of bargaining rights for everything except limited wage increases. The rush to push this proposal through the state legislative committees and the full assembly and senate within one week provides no real chance for discussion or analysis of the long-term impact, which goes far beyond dealing with a short-term budget deficit.

The claim for leaving civil service intact is also made suspect by the removal of positions such as chief legal counsel from the civil service. It is not wise to allow legal advice to be colored by partisan considerations. Other positions were removed as well further diluting the positive impact of the civil service tradition.

ACE urges the legislature to provide a slower process that allows for greater public involvement in such a far-reaching plan. The proposal will not only hurt public employees, but will also have a negative impact on private businesses that service this population and on long-term tax collection needed to continue public services.

Sincerely,

Sally Drew
President

2011 – Mailed to Members of Wisconsin Legislature

January 24, 2011

Dear Senator / Representative:

As Wisconsin faces a significant structural budget deficit, some policy makers have suggested that the benefits and salaries paid to state employees should be reduced to be more comparable to the benefits and salaries paid to private sector workers.

A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute, a non-profit Washington D.C. think tank, demonstrates that when salary and benefits are considered together, state government workers receive a compensation package 7.6% lower than comparable private sector employees. The study, entitled Debunking the Myth of the Over-Compensated Public Employee, controlled for factors such as education, experience, hours of work, gender, organizational size, and race.

As expected, the study found that retirement and health insurance benefits comprise a larger share of compensation for public employees than for private sector employees.  Wages and bonuses for private sector employees are higher than for government workers.

The public perception that state government workers are overcompensated may result from some under-appreciated factors.  While small employers outnumber large private firms, large firms with more than 500 employees employ nearly half of all workers.  Government pays high-school educated workers more than comparable private sector employees.  For college-educated labor, however, state and local employers pay on average 20% less than private employers in total compensation.

Wisconsin state employees, facing calls to contribute to their pensions and pay more for their health insurance, might want to emphasize that the focus should be on total compensation, not any one benefit.  The last 1% of the employee pension contribution was picked up by the state in 1983, when the state faced a serious deficit and made the contribution instead of granting any pay increase.  Because the state contribution was not subject to social security taxes, this was beneficial financially to the taxpayers as well as to the employees.

Any change should be negotiated with a comprehensive view of total compensation, which this study shows is somewhat lower than comparable private sector pay and benefits.

A summary of the EPI study is enclosed, and the full report is available on our website http://www.wiscow/ACE.

Sincerely,

Bob Jordan
Executive Director

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

2009 – To Assembly Speaker Michael Sheridan & Senate Majority Leader Russell Decker

Dear Representative/Senator:

The Association of Career Employees (ACE) is writing to thank you for the provisions in the 2009-2011 budget that provided health insurance to the domestic partners and adult children (through age 26) of state employees.

ACE had advocated for both of these insurance improvements for several years.  In a biennium with many fiscal challenges, and with sacrifices required from state employees, these new benefits provide some fairness and acknowledgement of the contributions made by state employees.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Bob Jordan
Executive Director

_________________________________________________________

2009 – September 9, 2009 to members of the Joint Finance Committee

Dear Representative/Senator:

We understand that a plan by the Office of State Employee Relations (OSER) in the Department of Administration to move state agency human resources staff to OSER will come to the Joint Committee on Finance for passive review.

We ask that when this issue comes to the Joint Finance Committee, you refuse to give permission for the Office of State Employee Relations to absorb human resources staff from other agencies.

ACE has been concerned for the last twenty-five years about efforts to politicize the civil service.  There has been a gradual erosion of civil service protections.

In the early 1980’s, the legislature agreed to strip civil service protection from the Administrator of the Division of Merit Recruitment and Selection in the Department of Employment Relations.  Now the Director of the Office of State Employee Relations reports to the Secretary of the Department of Administration, often regarded as the chief aide to the Governor.

Moving agency personnel staff into DOA will not serve the missions of state agencies.  In fact, it will make the hiring process more bureaucratic and burdensome, both for agency staff and for the applicants.

Further, moving the staff would strengthen the power of DOA’s Secretary to influence hiring decisions.  Legislators should resist decisions that strengthen the power of a Governor to exert political influence on civil service hiring decisions.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Robert Jordan
Executive Director

_________________________________________________________

2009 – May 4, 2009 to members of the Joint Finance Committee

Note: JFC rejected the Governor’s proposal on legal services and giving the DOA Secretary the authority to abolish vacant positions..

Dear Senator /Representative:

The Association of Career Employees (ACE) is a professional association of state civil service employees. We advocate for state employees and for Wisconsin’s historic civil service system.

There are several issues in the current budget of concern to ACE.

State Agency Attorneys

ACE opposes the Governor’s proposal to consolidate some agency attorneys into the Department of Administration, and to provide unclassified chief legal counsel to large state agencies. It is critically important that each state agency continue to receive nonpartisan legal advice on the many specialized issues specific to various agencies. Consolidation will dilute the ability of attorneys to provide specialized advice, and unclassified appointments will likely politicize the legal process.

We have seen the problem at the federal Department of Justice when political considerations affect the selection of attorneys, and the deleterious impact on the legal advice provided in a politicized environment. We do not need to replicate this unfortunate model in Wisconsin.

Authority to Eliminate Vacant Positions

The Legislature has an important role to play in determining the budgets and personnel available to state agencies. ACE hopes that the Legislature will not permit the Executive Branch to usurp the Legislature’s responsibility to participate in determining the appropriate staffing levels of state agencies.

While the current freeze on positions may have provided a short-term respite from layoffs, it has left major gaps in service that should not be made permanent just because certain positions became vacant at this time. If the state decides to cut positions, this process should be done in a deliberative manner based on priorities determined by both the Executive and Legislative branches of government. It should not be left up to the unelected Secretary of the Department of Administration.

State Benefits for Domestic Partners

ACE supports the provision of health and retirement benefits to the domestic partners of state employees. ACE supports this coverage because it is fair, and because it is needed for competitive reasons to recruit and retain state civil service employees and UW faculty.

The UW has lost grants exceeding the cost of providing coverage to UW partners because of the current policy. Major corporations and other governments that provide benefits to domestic partners have not experienced major increases in costs.

DOA Takeover of Human Resources Staff

ACE has been concerned for the last twenty-five years about efforts to politicize the civil service. There has been a gradual erosion of civil service protections.

In the early 1980’s, the legislature agreed to strip civil service protection from the Administrator of the Division of Merit Recruitment and Selection in the Department of Employment Relations. Now the Director of the Office of State Employee Relations reports to the Secretary of the Department of Administration, often regarded as the chief aide to the Governor.

Moving agency personnel staff into DOA will not serve the missions of state agencies, and will strengthen the power of DOA’s Secretary to influence hiring decisions. Legislators of both parties should resist decisions that strengthen the power of a Governor to exert political influence on civil service hiring decisions.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Robert Jordan

Executive Director