There was some heated discussion in the legislature's budget committee Tuesday. The issue seemed mundane enough: expanding the number of part time support staff in public schools who could qualify for state retirement benefits. Too much for local taxpayers, said River Hills Republican state Senator Alberta Darling. "Think about fairness, think about those individuals who are working two, three jobs to try to make ends meet. They are the guys who are going to be paying for this," said Darling. "I'm sorry to get a little emotional about it, but I think somebody's going to have to start waking up, and getting inside the skins of real people out there who are really going to be paying for all this. It's not that we don't want to give people in our school districts wonderful things, but the idea is can we afford it? Who's going to be paying for it and can they afford it? They can't."
"This is a very small fraction of dollars that people are getting," said Joint Finance Committee co-chair, Madison Assembly Democrat Mark Pocan. "So while you're making it sound like it somehow this is a great, onerous burden on people who are working two or three jobs in River Hills, I'm sorry that's B.S. It's completely not true." The provision in the governor's proposed budget would allow support staff who work as little as two hours and twenty minutes per day to qualify for the state retirement system.
"These are people on BadgerCare," said Pocan. "It's not like they're living high off the hog, on the backs of the people in River Hills. I am just tired of some the rhetoric we put out here, that has no basis in reality." The provision, included in Governor Jim Doyle's proposed budget, passed the budget panel on an 11-4 vote.