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The State Of The County Still Unknown

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on February 17, 2009

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker was supposedly going to give his State of the County address today. One would think he would’ve addressed how to restore the transit system, the parks, provide necessary services instead of having the State take over things, etc. Instead, what we got was his stump speech(pdf) for his perpetual gubernatorial campaign.

And what a stump speech it was. Not much was based on the county, but it did contain a lot of fantasy and a bald-faced lie or three.

The primary gist of his speech was that he would take that stimulus money that he didn’t want, and use it for a sales tax holiday and for property tax relief. As for the sales tax, the Recess Supervisor puts it away with his post, including this snippet:

We’ll begin with the fact that in order to do this, state and federal law would need to be changed. According to the MJS, Walker says he’s happy to lead the fight to do this. Of course, why anyone at the federal level would want to listen to Milwaukee County’s greasy-haired failure of a county exec is totally beyond me. Walker has no pull, no authority, and no clout with anyone. But hey, this looks great on a press release!

Let’s say that, in some parallel universe, this were possible. Sales tax holidays typically do little to encourage additional spending, since people in states with sales tax holidays simply defer essential spending until the designated weekend. It’s not like retailers make out like bandits, either. Because everyone is deferring spending until these weekends, stores are usually forced to slash prices more than usual in order to get people through the doors. That means less profit. It’s a push for stores, a loss for the state, and consumers end up not spending any more money than they would anyway. Epic stimulus fail!

Do read the whole thing, it’s worth the time.

Joe Wineke, the head of the DPW, also makes a good point regarding Walker’s fantasy on the sales tax:

“As Walker has already acknowledged, redirecting federal stimulus money towards a sales tax holiday would be impossible under the law. Furthermore, Walker’s crazy claim that the sales tax holiday would translate into $3,000 in savings for the average family assumes that each household will go out and spend $60,000 on taxable goods. What ‘average’ family has that kind of disposable income?

“Walker’s county tax holidays are based on the assumption that Milwaukee County might get as much as $500 million or more in federal stimulus aid, which is ridiculous considering that Walker has already said ‘no thanks’ to the federal stimulus funding.

As for the property tax, well, that is mere pandering to his suburban base. While it may be a noble goal, it will not help people who have lost their job, it will not help people whose homes have been foreclosed on, and it will not do anything for the people who rent.

The sales tax would be the more desirable and fair of the two, but then again, it’s just not realistic at this time.

Walker goes on with some other poorly thought out suggestions. The first one being moving the mental health complex to the old St. Mike’s campus (Which was supposed to have been torn down on January 1st, since no one wanted it. Why is it still standing?). This fiscal wunderkind is proposing to move out of a old, unsafe building on property owned by the County, and move it into an even older, more unsafe building that someone else would own. To top it off, the whole St. Mike’s fiasco would cost more than to build a new building, again on County property, and would still allow Walker to squander more assets by selling off the current grounds for a one-time budget fix. How’s that looking out for the taxpayers?

Walker then goes on with his pipe dream of privatizing the airport. Besides squandering a great program that the whole region utilizes and is a great money generator for the county, one has to wonder how the neighbors of the airport would feel that they would suddenly become powerless to stop any expansions of the airport that would swallow up their homes and businesses.

Walker also has a couple of plans for job creation programs. This would be great, if it weren’t for his track record in that area. He has already lost one jobs contract due to his inept management skills. Before that, Walker managed to lose the Private Industry Council due to its failure to produce any jobs in the area.

But the part I really don’t understand is when Walker talks about Family Care. He states that the State had delayed the expansion of Family Care in Milwaukee County due to the State’s budget problems, and he calls on Governor Doyle to expand it immediately.

The reason I am perplexed by Walker’s stance is not the delay. Even though it was reported that the delay was due to Walker’s incompetent handling of the call center, I understand he was doing that for political reasons. He is unable and/or unwilling to admit he made a mistake and could have done the job better.

The part that is perplexing is the second half of Walker’s statement. The State gave Milwaukee County the contract two weeks ago. Was Walker lying about this? If so, why? I really don’t see what he would gain. The only other explanation that makes sense is that he wasn’t aware of it. But then that leads to the question on how he couldn’t be aware of the County landing a multimillion dollar contract, unless, of course, he was too busy campaigning to pay attention to the job he already has.

This all could explain why he was posing with a bunch of shovels. His entire spiel was shovel-ready, just like an overflowing dairy barn.

For further reading on the matter, I would humbly suggest Ken Mobile, James Rowen, Dan Cody, and the statement by Board Chairman Lee Holloway.


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