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County Board Needs To Reject Walker’s Illegal Budget

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on October 30, 2010

From Milwaukee County First:

As they do every year, the County Board’s accounting staff pored over Scott Walker’s budget proposal and prepared a report for the Board.

As we have been saying all along, just like the budget for 2010, Walker’s budget is illegal and way out of line.

According to the report, the budget has at least a $30 million hole in it.

The bulk of his budget hole, $17 million worth, comes from non-negotiated concessions from the unions.  We’ve already discussed this as well.  Walker failed to negotiate one concession in the past two years that contract talks were supposed to be taking place.  There is no reason to believe that the unions will concede this year, unless they would happen to lose every lawsuit, arbitration and complaint with the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission that they have filed.

The unions have already filed a lawsuit against the county executive for violating labor laws, stating that Walker’s actions consist of nothing more than coercion.  Furthermore, there has already been action taken regarding the unbalanced use of furlough days.

If the unions are successful in their cases, that could result in the workers who received the excessive furlough days being reimbursed for the lost days beyond the twelve given to other employees.  This would obviously make this year’s deficit all the greater, and make next year’s budget hole even bigger as well.

Another area where Walker’s budget raises alarms is his expectation of $7 million to $8 million by selling the Crystal Ski Ridge in Franklin.  Greg Kowalski, who follows development issues, especially those in Franklin, reports that the county was  asking $4 million for the land only a few months ago, and now is only expected to get $3 million.

According to the accountants, any shortage in this land sale would affect construction projects.  Such projects could include the restoration or renovation of O’Donnell Park as well as the two indoor water parks that the Board had approved last year.

Another $2 million shortfall comes from Walker’s failure to do even a modicum of research and just expecting this revenue from ads on the county’s transit’s video system, even though the Board hasn’t even agreed to having the video service, much less a provider to hit up to balance Walker’s illegal budget.

Yet another area of grave concern is Walker’s expectation that the state will not require a payment of $7 million, if not more, for Badger Care.  The accountants note that although no amount is specified, the law requiring a payment is still on the books.  To make it even more likely that the state will be calling on a payment is the fact that the state is facing its own fiscal crisis.

Board Chairman Lee Holloway complains about the budget being even worse this year, and saying that a more balanced approach would be to get some concessions from the union, trim some spending and raise revenue in some way, either through the property tax or a wheel tax or both.

Instead of worrying about how to fix this irreparable and illegal budget, I would suggest that Chairman Holloway and the other supervisors pay heed to another observation made in the report:

The report by County Board staff is an annual ritual aimed at providing in-depth and nonpartisan budget scrutiny, similar to work on the state budget by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Nevertheless, the report notes the political nature of the county budget can’t be overlooked, particularly in light of Walker’s Republican bid for governor.

Given that this is a blatant attempt by Scott Walker to have county citizens and county employees support his gubernatorial campaign through this illegal budget, the County Board needs to flat out reject this piece of offal and send it back to Walker, demanding that he produces a legal and a balanced budget.

They should also remember that Walker is hoping and praying and expecting to be out of Milwaukee County when the trouble hits.  Whether he is or not, it is the Board that will have to deal with the backlash of having approved yet another illegal budget.

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