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Legislator and hundreds of state employees retired early to avoid trust fund losses

A legislator and hundreds of state employees avoided big losses in their pensions by retiring before the end of last year.

Former Rep. David Travis, D-Waunakee, figures he'll get $70-$80 more each month, just by retiring Dec. 30, instead of when his term ended on Jan. 5.

That's because the December retirement was based on the state's investment earnings from 2003-2007.

Those leaving this month will have to take last year's earnings into account, and as we all know, they took a huge plunge.

Matt Stohr of the Employee Trust Funds' office said lots of pending retirees called him recently to see how the market would affect them.

And the number of state workers retiring in the last three months of 2008 rose 16 percent from the previous year.

Stohr says taxpayers won't take a hit, since retirements are prefunded.

Travis said he did nothing improper by quitting six days early and nobody would have needed his help at that time.

But Jay Heck of the watchdog group Common Cause says there's still a "take the money and run" aspect to it and we should expect better of our politicians.

But the Travis, 60, says he has nothing to apologize for.

In fact, he said one of the reasons he's leaving is because of the salary. It's just under $50,000 a year, plus expenses, and he doesn't understand how lawmakers with families can afford the job.

He says legislators should get $75,000-$80,000 a year.