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Walker’s Budget Too Broken To Be Fixed

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on October 30, 2010

From Milwaukee County First:

For the second straight year, Scott Walker issued a recommended budget which was illegal and had a gaping black hole .  For the second straight year, Walker’s budget is so broken that the County Board cannot fix it.

Last year, Walker’s budget had a $32 million hole in the middle of it.  The bulk of the problem came from Walker basing his numbers on fictional concessions from the union regarding pay, health care coverage and payments into the pension.

Despite years of experience, and due to Walker’s special interest friends threatening some supervisors with recalls, the Board seemed to have forgotten themselves and more or less capitulated to Walker’s illegal budgeting gimmickry and and attempts of coercion against the unions.

The result of going along with Walker’s illegal budget is budget deficit currently reckoned to be $7.1 million.

In his 2011 proposed budget, Walker used the exact same gimmickry, but to a much higher degree.  It was found that this budget had a $27 million hole in the middle of it.  Some of the phony numbers that Walker used to “balance” the budget included:

  • Huber revenue of more than $700,000 than what was indicated by Sheriff Clarke.  Clarke testified to the Finance and Audit Committee that he could not justify this number.
  • $1 million in unclaimed property revenues that were not put there by the County Treasurer, per his testimony.
  • $2 million in ad revenue from the transit system, which were not included in their recommended budget, and could not be vouched for by the Director of MCTS.
  • An expected $6.8 million drop in matching funds for the mental health complex, even though said matching funds is still a state law. Furthermore, it is expected that such an event is very unlikely, given the state is facing a deficit worth a few billion dollars.
  • Faulty revenue expectations for land sales, including getting eight million dollars for Crystal Ridge ski hill, which is built on a land fill, and is worth only $3 million.  It should also be noted that some are interpreting this sale to include several acres of Whitnall Park.  This is sure to bring some wrath onto Walker and the Board if they go along with it.

The most egregious lie in Walker’s budget is the expected $17 million in concessions from the union.   Walker said that he felt such demands were “reasonable, but apparently never really felt that it was, since he has willfully failed to present these demands at the negotiating table.

To make matters worse, county staff have  admitted that it would be unlikely that the unions would readily agree to these concessions.  And even if they unions were to concede tomorrow, due to the Ceridian system, which is still not operating correctly despite running over budget,  and the complexity of all the different concessions, it would take six months or longer to get that in place, thereby reducing any expected savings.

The Board’s Finance and Audit Committee did some real yeoman’s work by trying to salvage something sensible out of the chaos of Walker’s budget.  They made some real progress, restoring many of the cuts that Walker had made, trying to minimize the damage to our regional economy and to our quality of life.

Sadly, their efforts fell short of the mark, and the County is again facing an illegal budget.  Granted, led by Supervisor John Thomas, who, ironically, was one of the key players in killing the agreement that the unions and the County had reached last year, has led the charge to develop  a proposal that would still include sacrifices by the unions, but no where nears the extreme demands proposed by Walker’s budget.

The Board, even though they were not completely successful, they deserve our gratitude for nearly pulling it off and for not giving up on Milwaukee County.

In summary, Walker flat out lied in this budget, and did so knowingly.  He does not care about the people he is supposed to be serving, but used this budget as a weapon in his effort to promote himself and his gubernatorial campaign.

But for anyone who has spent a modicum of time and effort in watching events at a county level, Walker’s narcissism, immaturity and ineptitude is well known.


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