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Wisconsin cities on hook for $2 billion in worker retirement benefits, study shows

Milwaukee Alderman Michael Murphy says public safety jobs are important - but paying their healthcare after retirement is becoming a problem.

"The reality is, when we have officers retiring and they're age 50, that can be a big cost for us," Murphy said.

The Wisconsin policy forum studied retirement benefits cost for the state's 25 largest cities. Twenty three cities saw those costs go down over the past few years.

"The decrease for most of the 25 was entirely offset and then some by increases in two cities, and those two cities are Racine and Milwaukee," Policy Forum President Rob Henken said.

Henken says the problem is labor contracts from the 70's and 80's , which paid higher portions of healthcare costs, at a time when healthcare was cheaper.

"What nobody predicted at the time, and ostensibly nobody could have predicted is the extent to which healthcare inflation outpaced regular inflation, and the extent to which healthcare costs have skyrocketed."

Milwaukee has cut some costs by raising the retirement age for most employees, but they can't for police and firefighters. Murphy says the only way that changes is if the state takes those groups collective bargaining away.

"Give us the same tools you gave us for Act 10 for police and firefighters," Murphy said. "And allow us to have some changes, meaningful changes, that are just to their pension issues."

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