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As I See It

Time to curb overtime for state employees

Scott Robert Shaw

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The costs of overtime can really add up. Especially for Wisconsin state employees. The costs of overtime for state workers has been on the rise, and those costs jumped by 12% just last year. The state spent more than $80 million on overtime for state workers in 2018, nearly $9 million than the year before. Some were able to more than double their pay by working very long hours. That includes a nurse who took home $217,000 last year, more than $122,000 in overtime. She worked, on average, 80 hours per week. Part of the reason for the overtime is the difficulty in staffing the Department of Corrections and the Department of Health Services, which need to be staffed 24/7 but have struggled to hire and retain employees. But many of these employees who hauled in huge checks did so to game the system. Under Wisconsin law, state workers can boost the size of their pension by putting in long hours as they approach retirement. Pensions are based on the highest years of pay for an employee, so some log long hours in their final years of service to boost their pay in their golden years. It would be cheaper for the state to stop paying so much overtime, and start hiring more workers, and perhaps paying them a little more. Legislators should look at changing the state’s pension laws so that a state employee’s pension is based on their average pay, not their highest year of earnings.

Scott Robert Shaw serves as WIZM Program Director and News Director, and delivers the morning news on WKTY, Z-93 and 95.7 The Rock. Scott has been at Mid-West Family La Crosse since 1989, and authors Wisconsin's only daily radio editorial, "As I See It" heard on WIZM each weekday morning and afternoon.

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