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Reality Check: Taxpayers To Pay Pensions Of Convicted Lawmakers

Published On: May 17 2006 10:29:50 AM CDT   Updated On: May 19 2006 11:36:35 AM CDT
MADISON, Wis. -

Five convicted state lawmakers will still receive every penny of their state pension, WISC-TV reported.

Some states mandate and others states allow for the reduction or complete loss of pensions if a person is convicted of a crime.

But in Wisconsin, there are no such laws, so former lawmakers Scott Jensen, Chuck Chvala, Steve Foti, Bonnie Ladwig and Brian Burke will keep their lucrative retirement deals.

Just how much each will receive is somewhat of a mystery. The exact amount is secret because state law prohibits state pension administrators from discussing anyone's deal, including elected officials.

But, a formula calculator on the state Department of Employee Trust Funds Web site allows anyone to calculate an estimate if you know how much the employee made, how long they worked for state government and their birth date.

A WISC-TV analysis estimate found that former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen tops the list. When he turns 62, he'll collect at least $1,771 every month until he dies, WISC-TV calculated.

Former state Sen. Chuck Chvala and former Rep. Steve Foti both served 21 years in the legislature and are in line for roughly $1,759 a month once they reach retirement.

Convicted former Sen. Brian Burke is estimated to get $1,078 a month. He served in the legislature from 1989 to 2002.

And Bonnie Ladwig, a former Assemblywoman, might already be collecting $945 a month. She's eligible to receive payments because she's 66 years old.

Seventeen states have laws allowing the loss of taxpayer-funded pensions, WISC-TV reported. Wisconsin isn't one of them. Some states cut off the entire pension. Other states only cut the taxpayer-funded portion.

In Wisconsin, taxpayers pay for the entire pension of state lawmakers. Some pensions require an employee contribution, but that's not the case for state legislators.

West Bend Sen. Tom Reynolds introduced a bill this session to require state elected officials to kick in part of the contribution.

The bill would require 1.5 percent of payroll to be paid by employees. The state would still be funding most of the contribution. The bill would also allow the public to see the details of pension plans for elected officials.

That bill had no co-sponsors and failed without a vote.

Reynolds says he'll re-introduce the bill next session.

To read more about Wisconsin politics, visit WISC-TV's Colin Benedict's brand new blog.

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