Gov. Scott Walker broke his campaign promise to pay the full cost of his state pension immediately after taking office in January, The Associated Press has learned.
“As governor, I’ll pay my share toward my retirement because everyone should pay their own way, including me,” Walker vowed during his campaign. After his election, Walker enacted a law forcing public workers to pay more for their pensions.
But Walker’s pay stubs, provided today in response to an AP open records request made in September, showed the governor did not follow through on his promise. Neither did Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, an outspoken born-again evangelical Christian who made the same pledge.
The requirement that state workers pay their 5.8 percent contribution was part of a controversial bill pushed by Walker that also took away nearly all collective bargaining rights from most public employees. The fight over that measure resulted in protests as large as 100,000 people, led to all 14 Democratic state senators fleeing to Illinois to block the bill, and made Wisconsin the center of the fight over union rights.
It also led to the recall of two Republican state senators over the summer and now a campaign to recall Walker. Democrats, unions and others plan to start collecting signatures in November to force a recall election of Walker next year.
Walker’s spokesman Cullen Werwie did not offer an explanation for why the governor didn’t start paying for his pension until the law forced him to.
Wisconsin Democrats were quick to call Walker to task for his hypocrisy.
“You’re asking people to do what you won’t do,” Democratic Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski said. “It shows you this is a person whose priorities are warped.”
“It is indefensible Scott Walker promised to live by these rules and then broke his word to Wisconsin,” said Scot Ross, director of One Wisconsin Now. “Scott Walker tore Wisconsin in two to pass these unnecessary changes and then tells us ‘Do as I say, not as I didn’t.’”
Marty Beil, executive director of the 23,000-member Wisconsin State Employees Union that fought bitterly with Walker over the collective bargaining changes, said the governor’s broken promise wasn’t surprising.
“Apparently Rebecca and Scotty boy want the world to believe they’re working men and women and treat themselves like everyone else, but clearly they didn’t do that,” Beil said.
This isn’t the first time Walker has run into trouble fulfilling promises related to his pension, the AP reported.
Immediately after winning election as Milwaukee County executive in 2002, Walker promised that any staff under his control would waive all salary and benefit increases enacted after 2000. But his opponent in 2004 revealed that Walker’s staff had been taking a higher pension benefit for two years. Walker then asked the county board to reduce it.