Will Walker have to pay higher costs like other workers? - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Will Walker have to pay higher costs like other workers?

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By Capitol Bureau Chief Bob Schaper - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MADISON (WKOW) -- Supporters of the budget repair bill have said from the beginning that it applies to elected officials too. But will higher insurance premiums and pension payments kick in at the same time for everyone?

Even now, some two weeks after the bill was introduced, there are still unanswered questions about who's affected -- and when.

"We'd start April first, we'd start, all of us, me included, would start paying the higher health care and pension contributions."

That was Gov. Scott Walker, in Green Bay, repeating what he's said for weeks: that the provisions of the budget repair bill apply to him and every other elected official in the state.

But is that true?

The state constitution expressly forbids changing the compensation of an elected official -- either up or down -- during their current term.

"Obviously, if that is the case this bill will probably have to be redrafted," Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said.

Barca says he was unaware of the constitutional concerns before today.

"We've said all along we should be taking the time to study this bill," Barca said. "There's so many different elements of it."

Lawyers at the Legislative Reference Bureau -- which drafted the bill -- say the constitution doesn't define what "compensation" is. Whether it applies to fringe benefits would be up to a judge, they said.

Madison Democrat Brett Hulsey says a similar issue came up when he was on the Dane County Board. He said board members voluntarily took furlough days, but could not be ordered to.

"I feel I really need to lead by example," Hulsey said.

A Walker spokesman says if the state can't charge elected officials more, the governor will voluntarily pay the difference.

Whitewater Republican Steve Nass says he'll do the same.

"I don't know how you go back home and tell people on the street that we're not going to pay until our term's up, but you on the local level are going to have to pay right now," Nass said.

"Of course, it's always possible this could be a moot point. If nobody challenges the law -- assuming it ever passes -- then the courts won't get involved."

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