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Word of Advice: Prepare For The Pain

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on October 30, 2010

From Milwaukee County First:

Last week, the County Board’s Finance and Audit Committee started to get to work on Scott Walker’s proposed budget for 2011.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on one’s point of view, they did not follow our advice of dumping the onus of making a balanced budget back onto Walker’s lap.

That said, they were not very receptive to the cynical political stunt that Walker calls a budget proposal and have stated they are going to have to rewrite it.  Some of the descriptive ways the Board has described it include “a nonstarter,” and “I wish we could just trash this budget.  I don’t believe in it at all.”

The Committee’s press release can be found by clicking here.

On Monday, the Committee deferred decisions on many of the departmental budgets.  The issue revolves around the fact that they realized that Walker’s budgeting gimmick of Section 1972 is nothing but the fool’s gold to responsible budgeting:

Supervisors expressed frustration, saying they fell for a concession plan a year ago for the 2010 budget, when Walker tried a similar strategy of attempting to force employee givebacks. However, the earlier set of concessions was not accepted by unions representing most employees, and Walker and the board wound up relying instead mainly on unpaid furlough days as a budget-balancing tool.

Instead of putting their budgetary hopes into a scheme that is not likely to occur, they have warned department heads to plan on making up for the holes in Walker’s budget in other ways.  And this is where things are going to get really ugly really fast.

The Zoo Director, Charles Wikenhauser, warned that this could mean closing the small mammals building and either selling or killing the animals that it currently houses.  If things go worse, it could also mean the selling off or killing of more animals, including brown bears and kangaroos.  He also warned that this would make the zoo less attractive and start a downward spiral as their revenue shrivels up due to less people coming to the zoo.

Sue Black, director of the parks, said that they managed this year, mostly due to the long stretch of nice weather reaching deep into the fall, which helped with golfing revenues.  However, further cuts would mean closing all of the deep well pools, indoor and out, as well as Wehr Nature Center.  Deeper cuts would mean closing down the Domes at Mitchell Park.

The non-mandated services, like the parks, the zoo and the transit system will probably be feeling the hits more than other services, but regardless of how they manipulate the cuts, it’s going to be painful, and could very well have more severe consequences than Walker intended with his political stunt.

Unless the Board makes a concerted effort to honestly bargain with the unions and get some concessions, we would be best off to prepare for some bad pain as Walker further sabotages the County in an effort to forward his political aspirations.


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