MADISON (AP) - Overtime costs dropped 22 percent in state government last year, declining below the level they were before Gov. Scott Walker took office in 2011.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Wednesday that the state paid $49.4 million in overtime in 2012 compared with $63.1 million in 2011. In 2010, the state paid $52.7 million in overtime.
The numbers on overtime spending were released Tuesday by Walker's administration.
The steep drop last year was due to a decrease in premium overtime, in which workers are paid at one-and-a-half times their hourly rate, instead of their regular hourly rate.
Wisconsin State Employees Union executive director Marty Beil said he doesn't think overtime hours have actually fallen, only the amount that the state is paying workers.
Stephanie Marquis, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Administration, disputed that. But she couldn't immediately provide numbers to the Journal Sentinel that would show the total number of overtime hours across state government.
The spike in overtime in 2011 and the decrease last year both followed the Republican governor's March 2011 law repealing collective bargaining for most public employees, including positions such as prison guards, who work the largest share of overtime hours.
The jump in costs in 2011 was also due to more than $9 million in overtime for state law enforcement during the Capitol protests over Walker's law.
Walker touted the latest numbers Tuesday as a triumph for his approach.
"I will continue to look for ways to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in government as we work to make our state operate as efficiently and effectively as possible," Walker said in a statement.
Many public workers retired or left the state following enactment of Walker's collective bargaining law. That resulted in a heavier use of overtime at state prisons.
But the Walker administration was also able to take steps to cut overtime costs that were formerly blocked by labor agreements, such as paying time-and-a-half only if workers are on the job more than 40 hours in a week. Prison guards and most other state workers can no longer bargain with state officials over overtime policies.
Beil said he remained concerned about the number of vacant positions in prisons, contending it contributes both to higher overtime costs and unsafe working conditions.
But Marquis said that under Walker, the Department of Corrections has made strides in reducing the number of vacancies. She contends the problem was inherited from Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle's administration.
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