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Because It’s Worked So Well Before

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on June 21, 2010

Both Republican gubernatorial candidates, Mark Neumann and Scott Walker, have made some grand pie-in-the-sky promises about drastic tax cuts, but neither have explained how they would pay for these tax cuts, whether it would be to double down on the deficit or to deny services to some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

Bill Christofferson, writing at Uppity Wisconsin, notes that a reporter in Wisconsin, Scott Bauer with the AP, has started asking some of the hard questions regarding these issues.

What Mr. Bauer found was not very surprising.

Neumann had nothing:

Neumann said he would limit state agency’s annual spending increases to no more than 1 percent less than the rate of inflation, but he hasn’t said which ones would be exempt from the reductions or what exactly would be cut.

Scott Walker’s wasn’t any better. As Bill pointed out, it was nothing more than “a work in progress.” Or in other words, “We’re making this up as we go along.”

Even worse is who he has in his camp acting as his brain trust. One of these trusted allies is Representative Robin “I’m Batman” Vos (R-Crazydonia) who’s most recently claim to fame is a letter to the feds saying that he is opposed to jobs coming to Southeastern Wisconsin.

Another one of Walker’s advisers is Senator Alberta Darling (R-the nearest golf course), who brought us, and continued to have oversight of the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare. The new child welfare system is costing tax payers tens of millions of dollars more every year and the only things that ever change are the names of the children being abused or killed while in the state’s care.

Walker did manage to come up with one specific action plan, which is to attack the unions. But much like his brown bag campaign, it is a much used and reused piece. Walker can’t very well run too much on his record in Milwaukee County with things falling apart and a ballooning structural deficit, so he takes the attention off of that by feeding into the hate of unions and public workers, fanned by the raw spewage of talk radio.

In a nutshell, Walker said that he is going to make the public employees pay for part of his tax cuts. On the surface, it sounds like a reasonable plan, and one that would play well in a populist sort of way, especially if the population being targeted are the TEA Party people.

In reality, it hasn’t worked so well for him in Milwaukee County. He has often tried to beat the unions into submission and continuously demanded that they give concessions. This hasn’t worked out the way he wanted it to. The unions don’t take kindly to being threatened or coerced, and would be much more willing to work with Walker at the negotiating table rather than acquiesce to his demands.

And therein lies the rub. If Walker were to sit at the table with the unions to negotiate for them to concede on paying more for their health care or pensions, the unions would want something in return, such as a pay raise or a no lay off clause, neither of which Walker would want to give them.

The only other option for Walker would then be to lay off workers, as he has done in Milwaukee County. One Wisconsin Now states that the number of workers needed to balance a state budget under Walker would be 29,000 jobs, or 42% of the current work force. Even I can’t believe Walker would be so foolish as to lay off that many people, but he has laid off so many county workers that it has caused some major problems:

  • Due to being so short-handed, the call center for the Income Maintenance Program couldn’t come anywhere near handling the calls coming in. The end result was that the state had to take over the program in order to save tax payers from a class action lawsuit.
  • There has been a regular flood of reports coming from the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division that shows the results of being understaffed, including patients being sexually assaulted by other patients.
  • Likewise, the House of Correction had severe problems with staffing shortages, which led to budget-busting amounts of overtime, burn out, unneeded injuries and at least one death. Things were so bad that HOC was slammed in a federal report and did not show signs of improvement until handed over to the sheriff’s office.

The list goes on and on.

Only a fool would deny that taxes are going to play a big part in this falls elections, not only in the state, but across the country. Everyone is for lower taxes.

But when it comes to severe cuts to services, people lose a lot of their enthusiasm. I would think that the winning approach to the tax and spend issue is one that takes a realistic look at how to get things under control, such as cutting frivolous programs and positions, and negotiating real cost cutting contracts with the unions.

We’ll see if Neumann and Walker can pick up on that before it’s too late for them.


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