Thursday, February 22, 2007

Zipperer E-Update, promises he'll never get sick

State Representative Rich Zipperer (R-Country Springs Hotel) launched his new E-Updates for the district. If you're interested in receiving them, you can e-mail him at

This week's update is on the failed effort to get the sick leave policy changed for elected officials.

Rather than just permitting time off for illness, our state employees and elected officials can accumulate unused sick leave and convert those unused sick days into health insurance premiums when they retire. With little accounting of the leave, and no enforcement, few elected officials have ever bothered to claim any sick days. By doing so, numerous state officials have built up sizable health care retirement accounts. One incredible example: according to published reports, State Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson has accumulated over $400,000 worth of health care benefits just through the collection of sick leave.

Even if our state was flush with cash and not facing a multi-billion dollar deficit, I see no reason why elected officials should receive a sick leave benefit while in office or during retirement. Legislators are not docked pay if they miss committee hearings or votes. Rather, if they're not doing the job and don't have a good reason for missing work, the voters can vote them out of office. The sick leave benefit simply serves no good purpose for elected officials.

Shortly after I was elected last November I became the first newly elected State Representative to publicly oppose the sick leave benefit and announce that I would not accept the benefit for myself. Earlier this year, I signed on as an early cosponsor of legislation, introduced by Senator Ted Kanavas and Representative Pat Strachota, to end this benefit for all Wisconsin elected officials.
It really is silly to have a sick leave policy for elected officials. Zipperer is right about the way elected officials should be held accountable for their attendance - by the voters.

Seth Zolotcha argues we should wait to see the numbers before making a hasty decision that affects the level of compensation for the state legislators. However, if we really want to create some sort of retirement health care benefit for legislators, lets do it up front rather than try to sneak it by as a "sick leave" policy.

Of course, then we might have to look at the whole compensation policy and whether we really have a full-time legislature.

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