Saturday, December 02, 2006

Playground v. Owen..The Real Case

Playground (who at one time was a State employee and may still be one) thinks Owen's a "screamer" who 'doesn't have a good health plan,' and that's the rationale behind Owen's unhappiness with Legislators who are committing fraud.

A lot of this hue and cry over sick leave conversion is coming from people who likely are just bitter or angry that their own employer doesn't take care of them as well as the state would. Thus spaketh Playground.

Oh, to be as simple-minded as P.

For the moment, let's leave aside the "State-care" issue. Let's focus on Owen's actual complaint:

Simply put, elected officials don’t need sick pay at all. Nor do they need vacation pay. It matters not at all if an elected official works one day or 365.

The fact that virtually no elected officials in the past 50 years have ever actually called in sick and evoked their sick pay is evidence of the fact that it is not necessary.

There is no reason to grant "sick/vacation" pay to Legislators, says Owen.

Worse, when it is granted, Legislators don't seem to take it--which proves both Owen's contention and mine--that they are simply committing fraud by not taking it when it is due.

In fact, as professionals, Leggies are only required to get their job done. Judgment on their accomplishment of that task is rendered by the voters. That's why their salary is guaranteed.

Why are they granted "sick pay"? Because they chose to cover themselves with this benefit. And since they are covered with this benefit, and the benefit has an either/or option--the "or" being a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, (and that is the option they exercise)-- we must conclude that Legislators think they are entitled to the pot of gold.

In other words, they chose to cost the taxpayers more. That choice--to arrogate to themselves a pot-of-gold benefit--is what Owen complains about.

All the rest of Playground's argument is pure crap, attempting to justify his "thought" that Leggies actually deserve and earn "sick pay." Playground erroneously compares UW Profs to Leggies. About 3 seconds' thought tells us that there is are differences, among them that Profs are not elected, and Profs get tenure. (A case could be made that after tenure is granted, a Prof should not get "sick pay" either.)

In the end, the real case is this: the Leggies think that they have an entitlement--just as do other "civil servants." This entitlement is called "pay me whether I show up or not." It just so happens that the Leggies have two identical entitlements, and they take both of them.

Owen's complaint is legitimate. Playground is wrong.


Anonymous said...

With all due respect, I find your take on "my opinion" interesting.

As I reread my post, I don't believe I actually assert my own position on this matter. I mention that both legislators and professors are similar in that they have a lot of discretion in defining their duties. I agree completely with you that there are differences. Those differences weren't relevant to my post, but you're more than welcome to point them out. I, in fact, agree with most of them.

I then state the following:

"Do legislators accrue too much sick leave? Given the lack of accountability for how they spend their time, the answer might well be yes. For the sake of argument, let's assume that it is."

What follows is a discussion of what changes to sick leave could be implemented.

The only opinion I really express in the entire post is that conservatives bitch and moan alot about people with good benefits. And that's true. One need go no further than talk radio to figure that out.

Some conservatives would probably just as well get the government out of health care altogether, on philsophical grounds. While we'd have millions more poor and elderly Americans who are sick, I respect where they're coming from. I disagree, but whatever. That's life. Hard-line conservatives will never be in power in America anyway, so I'm not worried about what the fringe thinks. It's the same reason why I don't sweat the thought of a nut like Dennis Kucinich being in the White House.

Feel free to disagree with the arguments I present. Please, I invite it. I'm happy to encourage discussion. But don't misrepresent my arguments as being my own positions. I'll make it plenty clear when they are. Unlike many out here, I actually can argue a position I don't believe in.

I'm happy to make a case for a position that is underrepresented out here on the internets. Otherwise, with few exceptions, this place is just a big wingnut and moonbat circle jerk.


Anonymous said...

Tenured profs shouldn't get sick leave? It's not sick pay; it's sick leave, Dad.

So the UWM chancellor (a position requiring a tenured professor) who recently took sick leave for prostate cancer should have . . . what? Stayed in the office, not taken sick leave, and died -- for you?

You blather about the UW being like a business. This is how business treats its CEOs, its management (that's what tenured faculty are), the other employees it has had to compete to hire in a national or even international market (all faculty)?

If so, that's a business bound to fail. We can only hope you are not running one.

Dad29 said...

Anony, in the real world (which actually MAY include UW,) there is such a thing as "short-term disability insurance."

In the real world, when someone is out due to serious illness or surgery, they are paid their 5 days' sick pay and perhaps vacation pay. After 2 weeks, "short-term disability" pay kicks in, usually at 80-90% of full pay. After 6 months, "long-term disability" pay kicks in. L-T-D is designed to make up the difference between Social Security disability and (say) 80% of regular income.

That's the real world, not the entitlement world.

RS, you waste a lot of bandwidth with "I don't have an opinion," except that you seem to have an opinion about Ogre Conservatives.

You could go buy a couple of opinions someplace.

Anonymous said...

Dad - My thoughts exactly on short & long term disability insurance.

Even if the insurance is self-funded by the state it would save significant money. Limit sick leave to 5 or 10 days annually, with carryover limited to a similar amount. When an employee has a serious illness, pay them out of the STD and LTD line items in the state budget. State employees actually end up with a better BENEFIT that is tailored to real life illnesses and injuries. For example, the UWM chancellor who recently took sick leave for prostate cancer would not be limited to his accrued sick leave. He would be paid from the LTD insurance pool until he is ready to return to work. The trade-off is that one more taxpayer financed golden parachute is eliminated.

A large cost to the state? Yes, but the accrual of the sick pay liability (the growth of which is compounded by the payment of sick pay at current salaries, not the salary when the benefit was earned) could be eliminated from the state's balance sheet. Prudent lawmakers would have switched to this system years ago.

Anonymous said...

Dad, let me make this clear: That -- resort to disability insurance -- is what happens on UW sick leave.

Now, what's the next "fact" you don't know and haven't even checked?

Dad29 said...

Dear Anony:

I did allow that UW may have a disability system. If you actually READ the posts, you'd know that.

My concern about UW is the one highlighted by the State's auditors: that Profs are deliberately NOT taking "sick days" in order to defraud the taxpayer of "accrued sick leave" at their retirement.

Same as Leggie fraud. No more, no less.

Learn to read, Anony. It helps a lot in real life.

Anonymous said...

Dad, you said "MAY." I'm suggesting it's not hard to check the facts.

And that's so for the audit, too. I suggest that you read the reports again before you claim fraud where none was proven.

Anonymous said...

Rep. Sherman: Sick Leave Conversion - A Fully Funded Retirement Plan, not Perk

Contact: Rep. Sherman's Office

(608) 266-7690

per·qui·site (pûr'kwĭ-zĭt) n.

1. A payment or profit received in addition to a regular wage or salary, especially a benefit expected as one's due.
2. A tip; a gratuity.
3. Something claimed as an exclusive right:

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 04 Dec. 2006.

The sick leave conversion program is not a perk of the legislature. It is a retirement program that is part of the employment benefits of every Wisconsin state employee. Legislators, like all other state employees that are not represented by a union, receive the benefit package negotiated by the state with the state employees’ unions.

With one exception.

Legislators only receive 65% of the value of the sick leave conversion benefit that other state employees receive.

I emphasize that the conversion plan is a retirement benefit. The sick leave part is only the funding mechanism. The value of the unused sick leave accumulated by public employees is converted into monthly payments on the premiums of retired employees health insurance. It is not paid out to the retired employee. This benefit is of great value to retired employees and is one of the reasons that Wisconsin is able to attract high-quality public employees despite paying lower compensation than the surrounding states in most job categories.

Because this benefit is funded by unused sick leave, it has a very low cost to the taxpayers. If the sick leave were on a “use it or lose it” basis, or paid in cash at retirement, it would be entirely used to fund the sick leave itself. By creating an incentive for employees to not use up their sick leave each year, the same fund of money can be used to fund this additional benefit at little additional cost.

Like all retirement benefits in Wisconsin, the Department of Employee Trust Funds administers the plan. Wisconsin has one of the largest public employee pension plans in the nation and it is very well managed. The sick leave conversion plan is fully funded, based upon actuarial studies, and the state has no unfunded liability for the benefits to be paid in the future. By being fully funded, investment income is used to offset part of the cost of the plan.

In order for public employees to realize the full value of the benefit, they would have to live long enough for the total of their monthly premiums to equal the amount of unused sick leave. It is not paid in cash. The notion of the plan having a cash value is deceptive, since no amount is ever paid to a retiring employee, it simply funds this retirement benefit.

Since legislators only accrue 65% of the sick leave that other employees accrue, the plan already takes into account the difference between salaried and hourly employees. Salaried employees do not report their time. This means that, not only do they not report when they are absent, they do not report when they work “overtime” either.

Legislators may work very long hours, or even seven days per week, but most of the time spent at their jobs is not spent “in session.” In addition to legislative committee work, meetings with legislators, constituents and others, legislators also attend numerous events and meetings in their districts. So, a legislator who is “absent” on a Tuesday may still be working on Saturday and Sunday the same week.

Further, legislators have laptop computers that give them the full capability of being in the office, no matter where they are. I was laid up most of the month of January 2006. I came to session in a wheelchair, but the rest of the time, I was confined to my apartment. Yet I worked every day, usually seven days a week. I used my computer and a telephone and I was completely productive. My location was irrelevant. The same is true of most legislators, including those named in recent new reports.

If democracy is going to continue to be viable, we have to get over the notion that everything a public official does is bad. There is plenty to criticize, but reinterpreting everything to fit a predisposition to hate politicians is not healthy.

Rep. Gary E. Sherman

74th Assembly District

(Rep. Sherman is a member of the Employee Trust Funds board. This article represents his own views and has not been reviewed by the Department of Employee Trust Funds or anyone associated with ETF.)

Dad29 said...

Dear Gary,

You must think we are all as stupid as YOU are.

The issue is not whether you characterize this as a "retirement benefit."


Your salary is paid regardless of "sick" days reported, Gary.

However, you could fix this. Simply declare that Legislators are eligible for "retirement" benefits INCLUDING the 65% formula for "unused" "sick" days.

No problem. It's called "honesty." You shoud get acquainted with it some day.