National Association of State Retirement Administrators

Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) administers retirement benefits for nearly all public employees in the state, excepting only those working for the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County. WRS assets are managed by the State of Wisconsin Investment Board.

Authorizing Statutes

Chapter 40 of the Wisconsin Statutes establishes the Public Employee Trust Fund. According to Chapter 40.01(2)

(2) Purpose. The public employee trust fund is a public trust and shall be managed, administered, invested and otherwise dealt with solely for the purpose of ensuring the fulfillment at the lowest possible cost of the benefit commitments to participants, as set forth in this chapter, and shall not be used for any other purpose.

Section 40.03 describes the powers and duties of the Board of Trustees, which include (but are not limited to) authorize and terminate the payment of benefits, ensure compliance with regulations, approve the tables used to compute benefits, select and retain an actuary, and approve the contribution rates determined by the actuary.

Board Composition

Plan

Board Size

Appointed

Elected

Plan Members

Ex Officio

Wisconsin Retirement System

13

10

2

2

1

Contributions

Per the U.S. Census, in FY 2014, employer contributions to Wisconsin state and local government pension plans were 2.28 percent of all state and local government direct general spending.

Constitutional Protections

No explicit constitutional protection for public pension benefits, but statutory protection is set forth in Section 40.19, WI Stat., which provides that "[R]ights exercised and benefits accrued to an employee under this chapter for service rendered shall be due as a contractual right and shall not be abrogated by any subsequent legislative act." Courts also protect pension rights against impairment of contracts and on due process grounds. Wisconsin Professional Police Ass'n., Inc. v. Lightbourn, 627 N.W.2d 807 (Wis. 2001)(recognizing that all participants in the Wisconsin State Retirement System are protected by §40.19(1) from the abrogation of accrued benefits unless the benefits are replaced by benefits of equal or greater value); Association of State Prosecutors v. Milwaukee County, 544 N.W.2d 888 (Wis. 1996)(recognizing that vested employees and retirees had protectable property interest in retirement assets and thus statute permitting non-vested employees to transfer employer contributions resulted in taking of property without due process); Welter v. City of Milwaukee, 571 N.W.2d 459 (Wis. App. 1997) (holding that retirement benefits in effect when a Milwaukee police officer becomes a member of the retirement system are vested as to that officer unless the officer agrees to a change); but see Bilda v. County of Milwaukee, 713 N.W.2d 661, 668, 292 Wis.2d 212, 224, 2006 WI App 57, 57 (Wis. App. Mar 23, 2006) (ordinance that directed payment of administrative expenses from system earnings rather than dedicated expense fund did not violate takings clause). (Section 40.19, WI Stat., WI CONST., Article 1, §12) Source: Robert Klausner, Esq., State Constitutional Protections for Public Sector Retirement Benefits

Flag of Wisconsin (September 17, 1979)

Population (2016) 5,778,708

Wisconsin public pension statistics, per U.S. Census Bureau as of FY 2016 ($ in 000s)

Assets

$98,152,527

Active Members

273,015

Annuitants

213,877

Benefits Paid

$5,324,949

Employee Contributions

$986,585

Employer Contributions

$1,088,443

Systems

4

More Data

Other Resources