Citizens pay for costly political games

Wisconsin politicians suffer from amnesia. Their malady is costing taxpayers millions of dollars as members of both parties forget the consequences of raiding public funds.

In 1987 Republican Governor Tommy Thompson raided $230 million from the Wisconsin Retirement System to balance the budget. The Wisconsin Education Association Council and other organizations filed a lawsuit, claiming the raid was illegal. Eight years and lots of legal wrangling later, the state lost the case and had to pay back the money plus legal fees.

Attorneys don’t come cheap. And the money didn’t come out of the politicians’ pockets.

Apparently the Democrats thought they could get away with a similar raid because in 2007 and 2008, Governor Jim Doyle took about $200 million from the state’s Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund. This is a fund that doctors are required to contribute to in addition to paying their malpractice insurance premiums. It compensates malpractice victims when a doctor’s insurance coverage isn’t adequate.

The Wisconsin State Medical Society hired the same law firm that the other organizations hired in 1987 and took the dispute to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. In the summer of 2010, the court ruled that the state has to pay back the money plus interest and legal fees.

Now Republican Governor Scott Walker’s new budget bill proposes taking money from the Public Employee Trust Fund and using it to pay health insurance bills.

Yet when the resolution of the lawsuit against Doyle’s raid was announced, Walker – then a gubernatorial candidate – released the following statement:

“The raids enacted by Governor Doyle are inexcusable and have wreaked havoc on our state budget, and now the taxpayers are yet again on the hook for his misguided policies. As governor, I’ll find ways to do more with less to fill the $2.5 billion gap created by Governor Doyle, and support an amendment that will protect funds like these from future raids.”

How quickly they forget.

References
Scott Walker’s statement from his campaign site:
http://www.scottwalker.org/press-release/2010/07/scott-walker-statement-patient-compensation-fund-ruling

The reference to the transfer from the trust fund in Walker’s current bill is on p. 125:
http://legis.wisconsin.gov/2011/data/JR1AB-11.pdf

Summary of the medical society lawsuit:
http://www.wisconsinmedicalsociety.org/files/Lawsuit_summary_for_web_07_22_10.pdf

The actual Supreme Court decision:
http://www.wicourts.gov/ca/cert/DisplayDocument.pdf?content=pdf&seqNo=44477

The lawsuit filed by the WEAC and other groups regarding Thompson’s retirement system raid:

http://www.wicourts.gov/ca/opinion/DisplayDocument.html?content=html&seqNo=7803

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