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Scott Walker’s Really Bad Day

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on June 17, 2009

cry_babyAs everyone knows, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker has his eyes on the governor’s mansion. His campaign is based on his theory that he could do the job better than Jim Doyle, and not raise taxes either.

Today, was not a good day for Walker’s campaign. In fact, it was a really, really bad day.

It started out with the morning paper reminding everyone on why the state had to take over the income maintenance program. Basically, it was because Walker short staffed the programs and thus the work just wasn’t getting done. Walker did eventually add a few more workers to the call center, but it was more of a case of too little too late, and even then, it got screwed up royally:

That prompted County Executive Scott Walker this year to add employees to the thinly staffed unit in the face of a class-action lawsuit and County Board resistance to Walker’s push to privatize the operation.

The audit also found that call center staff spent less than half their time answering calls. Several call center staffers were diverted to helping walk-in clients, and center employees performed other tasks such as processing mailed benefit applications or inputting data for online applications.

The only good news for Milwaukee County was that even thought the call center was still understaffed, and the staff that was there kept being diverted from their job responsibilities, the number of calls increased slightly and the wait time dropped by a bit. This shows that the County Board was correct in saying that the County could do the job, and do it right, if only the workers were there and allowed to carry out their duties.

SIDENOTE: James Rowen also notes this and wonders how this will help Walker’s campaign.

And that was just the beginning.

It was also reported today that the Chrysler plant in Kenosha will be resuming operations soon. Of course, Governor Jim Doyle was one of the leaders in the push to convince the company to reopen the plant and let those workers start earning money again. Meanwhile, Walker is still threatening to put more people out of work. These layoffs and/or furloughs will cause more damage than they will help, but Walker is apparently willing to sacrifice all of Milwaukee County and its citizens for his own political aspirations.

Laying off people and cutting services are not good ways to impress people in a state with an almost 10% unemployment rate.

And the bad news kept on coming for Walker.

The county budget is going to be a really bad one next year. There is no way getting around it. But it seems like it was pummeled today.

The local paper reported that the Milwaukee County Pension Board is saying that the County’s payment for next year will be almost $75 million next year. Over $39 million will be going to the mention fund and more than $32 million are required to pay the pension obligation bonds that Walker insisted were necessary to keep the pension fund payments down. That seems to be working well, doesn’t it?

Jay Bullock adds to the budgetary woes by reporting that it appears that the Milwaukee Public Schools are ready to pull out $3 million and give it to yellow school bus companies instead of to the Milwaukee County Transit System. It is not surprising that MPS would do that. Every year Walker has slashed routes and/or increased fairs, which is not how to run a program and expect ridership to stay up. There is indeed great cause for concern about the well-being of the transit system while Walker is at the wheel.

To top it all off, Walker is suddenly finding himself faced with challenges coming from every angle.

The State Senate has just passed their version of the budget. In the Senate’s version, the full one percent sales tax, which was passed by referendum by Milwaukee County voters, has been restored. Even though this would go a long way to restoring much needed funding to the transit system, the parks, and the EMS, and it would lower property taxes as well, Walker was staunchly opposed to this. If the sales tax manages to survive to the finalized budget, Walker will face a very angry County Board, who really wants this sales tax, and all of its benefits, to go into effect. Unless something drastically changes, Walker has to choose between reversing positions and allowing the sales tax or having his veto overridden and losing any chance to claim the benefits from it.

And in a move that surprised even me, AFSCME has filed a lawsuit against Walker, asking for an injunction against Walker’s plan for a furlough. According to the article, the union is challenging Walker’s legal authority to issue the furlough:

The lawsuit, filed by Milwaukee District Council 48 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, asserts that Walker does not have the authority to issue such an order.

“Walker’s executive order was invalid in that Walker lacked the power under (the statutes) to reduce the hours of employees because that power is reserved to the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors,” the lawsuit claims.

In the same article, there is more bad news for Walker, this time coming from the County Board, especially from Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic:

County supervisors also are claiming Walker lacks the legal authority to take emergency budget action.

“It’s like a nightmare dream come true” for Walker, said Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic.

By declaring a fiscal emergency, Walker is unilaterally accomplishing cuts that the board has blocked in the past, she said.

and this:

Walker tried to close a host of county pools in a budget-cutting measure in 2006 but was rebuffed by the board.

He shut down Pulaski and Noyes parks’ indoor pools last week under his emergency budget power.

Dimitrijevic will announce a petition effort to have Walker reverse the pool closing during a news conference Thursday at the Pulaski pool.

I have a feeling that Supervisor Dimitrijevic’s attempt will be successful, since he is basically robbing the senior citizens who use these pools, and then allows his staff to be extremely rude the same senior citizens when they call his office to discuss this issue.

I also understand that Walker will be facing more legal challenges in the days and weeks to come.

It is no wonder that Walker isn’t picking up a lot of respect from near or far.

Yep, it was a bad day for Walker. Unfortunately for him, it seems like just one of many coming ahead for him.


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