Editor's note: Gannett Wisconsin Media's "What We Pay" series, which began on Sunday, is a comprehensive look at public employee compensation in Wisconsin. Reporting for the series includes an exhaustive database of Wisconsin's public employee names, titles, years of experience, salary, benefits and overtime pay.
The series will run through Feb. 3. It has already inspired a range of reactions and some passionate conversations among readers online.
Disappointed and disgusted
I'm disappointed and disgusted that Gannett Wisconsin Media is doing this series. Public workers have been vilified and disrespected during the last two years. People have no idea what it has been like - the stress, the low morale. And now this. Shame on Gannett for adding fuel to the fire of hatred for public workers.
- Mary Lou Krueger DeBraal, via Facebook
In the context of what Wisconsin has experienced, this is not a nonpartisan activity. This action stokes the fires of division set ablaze by Scott Walker when he "dropped the bomb" in February of 2011.
The goal of "What We Pay" is, as Blue Cheddar comments, a "witch hunt" designed to make life miserable for public employees. It is to make Scott Walker, and a legislature full of reactionary, knuckle-dragging politicians, even stronger in their positions. It is a blatant right-wing bit of propaganda courtesy of the corporation that fought so hard to crush the Detroit newspapers strike in the mid-1990s.
- Bobby Gee, via Facebook
Will those in charge of this investigation also look into how much these professors and public workers benefit the public?
- Lanore J. Rusch, via Facebook
I'm not sure a list of individual salaries explains the profits and losses of individual institutions; show us the University of Wisconsin's budget with wages rolled up in context and compare to other similar institutions; that would increase the value of analysis.
- Doug Diny, via Facebook
A directory of tax delinquents, recipients of corporate tax breaks and political contributors would be far more useful. Sure, (databases of that information) exist, but unaccompanied with this sort of fanfare. The timing - right before the biennial (budget) - is curious.
- Twitter user @rhenk_amatoor
Public benefits from data
This data should be visible to the taxpayers at every level. If you don't want your salary public, don't work in the government.
- Twitter user @nefariousjives
All public employees' salaries are a matter of open record. Of course, this is as it should be: They work for the public, the taxpayers. Why should their pay and benefits be secret?
- Commenter earthside, via Democratic Underground message board
I do not deny the right of the public to know for what its tax dollars are used. Just explain to me the relevance of knowing which individual makes a given salary. Tell me how it's relevant to know that a certain dollar figure is paid to John Smith rather than simply to employee 17345? If you were to provide anonymity to the individuals, how would that impede the public's right to understand how they tax dollars are being spent?
- George Possley, via Facebook
Live chat comments
The following comments were left by readers who participated Monday in an online live chat with Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team reporter Eric Litke, who led reporting on "What We Pay":
Christine: Serving this data up in database form basically means that this data will be used to support all manners of argument, whether people understand comparisons or statistics or not. It'll be a free-for-all and that concerns me.
David: Next up, please: "What We Get." We need to also emphasize the benefits of educational institutions and not just who's paid what.
Dave Hinds: Thank you so much for letting us know about wasteful and non-managed tax dollars being spent.
John: Just reporting wages doesn't account for the job that one does. It leads to a creation of animosity from those who believe public workers are paid too much, and (forces) those workers to defend their job and the reason they get paid.
Rose: These teachers and professors should be grateful for the money and benefits that they make and not have a hissy fit like they did at the Madison Capitol over teacher salary and benefits!
Jean: One thing that I'm hearing from many here is that public employees are paid more than private, or that government is bloated. Please keep in mind that if you expect certain public services - such as roads, sewers, public education, quality higher education, prisons and some of the most beautiful public parks in the country - you also have to expect to pay for it.