Sick days perk for Wisconsin lawmakers targeted

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A perk that allows Wisconsin state lawmakers to apply the value of unused sick days to pay for health insurance premiums upon retirement is being targeted for elimination under a new bill.

The proposal circulated Wednesday by three Republicans would end the benefit going forward, but not take away accrued time for current lawmakers.

Members of the state Senate and Assembly currently receive about 10.5 sick days per year. Unused days accumulate and upon retirement convert to a credit that can be used to pay for the state’s retiree’s group health insurance premium.

According to the bill sponsors, only five other states offer the same benefit to retirees.

As of Feb. 1, the estimated value of accrued credits for the 132 members of the Legislature was more than $5.6 million, or nearly $43,000 per lawmaker. Last year, retired lawmakers used their credits to pay for more than $1.6 million in healthcare premiums, according to the bill sponsors.

The proposal from Sen. Mark Felzkowski and state Rep. David Steffen, both Republicans, would eliminate the ability to accrue new sick leave beyond the current term.

Because lawmakers don’t have to report when they are sick, they rarely claim the days resulting in the program becoming “almost entirely a post-retirement political perk,” the bill sponsors said.