State Government and Political Roundup: State senator wants a closer look at UW's Human Resource systemWisconsin News
-- A state senator wants to take a closer look at the UW’s new Human Resource System.
MADISON - A state senator wants to take a closer look at the UW’s new Human Resource System. That’s after the Legislative Audit Bureau found that the university overpaid $33-million in employee health and retirement benefits in the last fiscal year.
Joint Audit Committee co-chair Sen. Rob Cowles of Green Bay said the audit raised concerns about a lack of monitoring and oversight for the UW’s fringe benefit payments. Cowles said it reflects a quote, “recurring trend of fiscal mis-management by the UW System.” But university spokesman David Giroux said the problems have already been resolved. He said UW staffers identified the over-payments, and have adopted new procedures to prevent similar problems in the future.
The complex Human Resource System started operating almost two years ago, and Giroux said the errors took place during what he called a “period of stabilization” for the system. The audit showed that the UW overpaid $15-and-a-half million for health coverage, including eight-million for over 900 employees who had been fired. The UW was only able to recover $228,000 of the premiums for the fired workers. The overpayments to the state retirement system were credited back to the university.
A state legislative leader says that if Governor Scott Walker wants to cut state income taxes, he should also say how he’d pay for it with other new revenues or spending cuts. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) also says the poor and the elderly should get a larger share of any income tax break. He said it would make up for what Republicans did two years ago, when they scaled back the earned income tax credit for the working poor and blocked a scheduled expansion of a tax break for seniors. Barca said the middle class should then be the next to benefit. Walker told Wisconsin bankers yesterday that an individual income tax cut is the best way to boost the state’s economy. He’ll propose a reduction that’s phased in over several years, and he’ll start spelling it out Tuesday night during his annual State-of-the-State address. Walker will hold back the complete details until he unveils his proposed new state budget next month. The governor said he would not propose cuts in local property taxes – but he wants new controls to keep those taxes from going up. By phasing in an income tax cut, Walker would increase the state’s structural deficit – money that’s needed to cover future obligations beyond the next budget period. State Senate President Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) has been a vocal opponent of structural deficits. But he said he would support a long-term income tax cut, as long as it includes an automatic mechanism which halts the reduction if state revenues drop sharply.
You’ll no longer see your state legislator wearing an orange solidarity T-shirt during debates on the Assembly floor. Representatives approved a dress code for themselves yesterday, as part of the Assembly’s operating rules for the new session. Men must wear coats-and-ties at their desks on the Assembly floor – and women must wear appropriate business attire. If they don’t, they won’t be allowed to take part in that day’s debates. In the last session, Democrats showed their opposition to public union bargaining limits by wearing orange solidarity T-shirts on the Assembly floor. And most Democrats apparently want to keep that privilege. Only one Democrat supported the new dress code when Republicans pushed it through on a 59-37 vote.
Also, the state Assembly tried to put a clamp on the disruptive behavior by spectators that was common in the last session. Visitors will not be able to use cell-phones, wear hats, or eat food in the galleries. Democrats called those unconstitutional restrictions on the people’s right to watch their government – but Republicans said the Assembly needs to bring some type of decorum to their chamber. Also yesterday, Assembly leaders agreed to set time limits for debating each bill, to avoid the all-night meetings that were common in the last session.