PEOPLE-Local 645

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Posted by Chris Liebenthal on August 18, 2010

From Milwaukee County First:

Late last year, we pointed out that the 2010 County Budget had a big, gaping black hole built into it.  This black hole was caused by Scott Walker and his allies on the County Board ramming through an illegal budget.

The budget was illegal for two related reasons.  One, as Supervisor Patricia Jursik admitted in a taping of the 4th Street Forum, the County passed a deficit budget.  The law requires that the budget has to be balanced.

The second reason, and the cause of the deficit,  is that the County tried to negotiate union contracts through the budgeting process.  This violates not only union contracts, but the laws regarding good faith bargaining and labor relations laws.

Where Scott Walker and the Board screwed up with that can be found in the 2010 budget, in Section 1972.

Section 1972 has to deal with Personnel issues and includes things like pension rates, health care premiums and copays, raises,  and similar issues.

Some of the expectations the final budget included a complete pay freeze, twelve furlough days (Walker later unilaterally added another ten days for only certain employees – the ruling abut this action is still pending), changes in the overtime policy, an increase in health care premiums and co-payments, a reduction of the pension multiplier, an increase in the minimum retirement age, and other non-negotiated expectations.

It is because these budget items were non-negotiated that is causing the current fiscal crisis that Milwaukee County is facing.   At the time of the budget process, the unions and the County had been trying to negotiate a contract for a year.  In fact, a Tentative Agreement had been reached and the agreement had been ratified by the unions.

The TA included a pay freeze for two years as well as an increase in health insurance costs paid by the employees in each year.  In exchange, the union only asked for a no lay off clause to be included.  It was estimated that the cost of the TA would have been about $5 million.

However, at the eleventh hour, due to the pressure of having to deal with Walker’s preposterous budget proposal and the threat of recall from Walker supporters at Citizens of Responsible Government,  some of the members of the County Board panicked and rejected the TA.  They then proceeded to follow Walker’s lead of putting the non-negotiated items in the budget, knowing full well that what they were doing was illegal.

Now, more than halfway through August, there has been no progress on the contract negotiations between the County and the biggest union, AFSCME.  Some of the smaller unions have already capitulated.  The cost of the illegal budget it already in the area of $8 million to $9 million, and that does not include all of the extra costs due to the multiple court cases or the emergency repairs that have to now be done due to years of deferred maintenance.

In other words, due to the political grandstanding of Walker and his supporters, the county tax payers are already three to four million dollars deeper in the red than if they had just done fair bargaining in the first place.  To further our pain, the deficit grows by more than one million dollars each month this charade continues.

This is not responsible governing.  And it is about to get worse.

At the time of the budget process, we pointed out a major problem with the County’s desire to rely on 1972:

It also, ironically puts the County in a bargaining disadvantage. Supervisor John Weishan, who sits on the Personnel Committee, pointed out that Walker’s own labor negotiating team admitted that Walker’s proposal has a zero chance of winning in arbitration.  That means that as long as AFSCME did not propose anything unreasonable, the odds of the union winning an arbitration was all but guaranteed.  To make things even more likely to fall in the union’s favor was the fact that most of  all the other local governments had successfully reached negotiations with their unions offering modest raises, along with other concessions from the unions.  Milwaukee County did the same thing with the nurses union, eroding the County’s position even further.

This is turning out to be true.  Milwaukee County First has learned that Walker’s labor negotiator has advised the Personnel Committee that the County could not prevail in an arbitration hearing with the union representing the Sheriff’s Deputies.

Because of this, the Personnel Committee has just approved a proposal to rollover the deputies’ contract and set it up for negotiations again.  This means, if approved by the whole Board and Walker, that the deputies will not have to contend with any pay cuts, increased contributions or anything else dealing with 1972.

And if the deputies aren’t going to be subjected to the items of 1972, do you think for a second that AFSCME is about to agree to do so?

This also proves that Walker knew that this was not going to work, but was just a budgeting gimmick which he hoped would make him look better for his gubernatorial run.  Instead, it will cost tax payers tens of millions of dollars and send the deficit ballooning at an unbelievable pace.

With the deficit this huge, it will, without a doubt,  mean an increase in taxes, probably to the maximum allowed.  It will also mean a drastic cut in all services, with the parks and the transit systems getting hit first and the hardest.  It would not be surprising if this would also mean an eventual take over of more systems by the state as they start to fail.

And all of this is simply because of Walker’s pattern of putting his political aspirations before the public good.

Call your Supervisor and demand that they start showing responsible leadership and budgeting now.  They can be reached at 278-4222.

Then call the County Executive’s office at 278-4211 and tell them that you want Scott Walker to stop running his campaign at the tax payers’ expense.


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