You might say that 2011 was the year when the costs of public pensions started to emerge into the national consciousness, what with all the events that happened in Wisconsin. What does this year hold? A noted Washington DC-based think tank has assembled a group of experts who will address that question.

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is having a conference called “Collective Bargaining, Public Pensions and Voters: The Policy and Politics of Public-Sector Employees in the 2012 Elections.” It will be held Wednesday, January 25, from 7:30-10am, CST. The event is in DC, but it will be streamed online, so you can bypass the TSA and still participate. Just click on the AEI website when the time comes.

Here’s the official description of the event.

In states around the country, 2011 was marked by substantial and sometimes acrimonious debate over reforms to public-sector employees’ compensation, especially pensions and fringe benefits. States including Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey and Rhode Island enacted a variety of reforms designed to shore up ailing state finances and reduce future liabilities. In Wisconsin, the debate over reform virtually paralyzed the state government for weeks. And in Ohio, a vote to eliminate public-sector collective bargaining and trim benefits was roundly rejected by voters.

What does 2012 hold, both in terms of policy and politics, for the developing relationship between public-sector workers and taxpayers? What does a proactive reform agenda for 2012 look like? Is a pro-reform platform a winning issue for reformers or their opponents? This event will address these and other questions in two panel discussions: the first looking at the state of public employee pensions and potential future reforms, and the second examining the politics surrounding public employee compensation reform, including who won and lost politically in 2011 and what these state-level skirmishes can tell us about the 2012 elections.