BLOG: Senate Committee Votes to Eliminate Sick Leave for Legislators

Unused sick leave pays for legislators’ health insurance in retirement

MacIver Minute Blog | September 8, 2015

[Madison, Wisc…] The Senate Committee on Government Operations and Consumer Protection voted on Tuesday to pass Senate Bill 183, which would eliminate sick leave for Wisconsin state senators and representatives.

A group of bipartisan committee members voted 4-1 in favor of passing the bill, with Sen. Harris-Dodd (D-Milwaukee) voting no.

As the MacIver Institute previously reported, members who are currently serving in the legislature have accrued over $2.4 million in sick leave. The number rises to $3.4 million when past members of the legislature are included.

“I am very encouraged to see this bill continue to move forward, Rep. Steffen (R-Howard), one of the bill’s authors, said. “This is an important measure in continuing to promote transparency and financial responsibility in our state government. This sick leave conversion credit program has grown into an expensive and unnecessary post-retirement perk that should, in the best interest of our taxpayers, be eliminated.”

According to the bill’s authors, many legislators are not even aware of this benefit. For example, in 8,356 sick hours were earned in the Assembly in 2014, but only 48 were used. During the same time frame, only 16 out of 2,749 earned hours were used in the Senate. Once a legislator leaves his or her position, those hours can be converted into credits for postretirement health insurance premiums.

Harris-Dodd explained that she voted no out of concern that another bill eliminating sick leave for all legislative employees would be introduced in the future.

SB 183 will now go to the Senate floor for a vote by the full chamber. The Senate will be in session Wednesday, September 16, though an agenda has not yet been released.