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No, Mr. Walker, Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on November 29, 2010

From Milwaukee County First:

As noted the other day, the Milwaukee County Board barely passed the adopted version of the 2011 budget.

While the Board’s version is less vulgar than the original budget proposed by Walker, it is still not acceptable.  It raises taxes yet cuts services even deeper.  Furthermore, just like the 2010 budget, it is out of balance and illegal as it depends on unjustified expectations such as non-negotiated concessions from the union and unrealistic revenue goals.

Scott Walker responded to the adopted budget with this press release:

“County Executive Scott Walker appreciates that a majority of the members of the County Board embraced the concept of his wage and benefit reforms. He is, however, still committed to restoring the 2011 budget to a million dollar property tax levy reduction. Now, more than ever, homeowners and employers need relief from the tax burden to stay in our county and create jobs in our county.”

While it is true the unions will need to make concessions to help the county’s fiscal situation, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it.  The right way is to sit down with the unions and participate in good faith bargaining to get those concessions.

The wrong way is to try to dictate those concessions through the budgeting process.  You don’t have to even take my word for it, since it has already been ruled to be bad faith bargainingand thus illegal:

Abelson’s union announced Thursday it had won a decision by a state administrative judge saying the county had bargained in bad faith when it approved a 2010 budget with concessions it hadn’t negotiated. That ruling should help bolster the union’s position in arbitration over union contracts, Abelson said.

In other words, Walker’s, and now the Board’s, political posturing as weakened the County’s bargaining position and subsequently endangered the County’s financial situation even more.

Mr. Walker also needs to be aware that the Board also adopting non-negotiated concessions as part of their budget does not legalize or justify his illegal budget actions, but merely makes them accessories to the crime.

At least one of the Supervisors, John Weishan, sees the folly of this budget, as evidenced by a press release he issued on Tuesday:

It’s bad déjà vu all over again at the County Board. By approving a scaled back wage and benefit package based on the County Executive’s flawed labor relations strategy, a number of naïve Supervisors are making the same mistakes they did last year. Recycling this playbook will lead to higher property taxes in the future. That’s why I voted against the 2011 budget.

“Last month, the County was found guilty of bad faith labor negotiation practices. With Monday’s action, we are repeating the same mistake. I agree that we need to achieve concessions from our workforce, but we need to seek these changes in an appropriate manner. Dictating these changes in a budget, without engaging in any good faith bargaining, only sets us up for failure. Next spring, we will be forced to cut mass transit and other vital programs. We tried this flawed strategy in the 2010 County Budget last year. It’s now mid-November, and we’re staring at an $8 million shortfall. I still haven’t seen the County Executive’s corrective action plan to fill this gap.

“Monday’s 2011 Budget Adoption meeting, which started at 8:30 a.m., finally wrapped up around 11:30 p.m. This included nearly six hours of wasted time crafting amendments that don’t solve our long-term problems and may not survive veto override votes. Even worse, these budget ‘fixes’ were hammered out behind closed doors, violating the public’s right to open government. I was not part of these meetings. Instead, I led the charge for meeting in open session and recessing our meeting by 11 p.m.”

Besides Walker trying to justify his illegal budget, I would also put a question to him:

Seeing how he feels that the tax payers are being overburdened with taxes, how overburdened does he consider our vulnerable adults who are being physically and sexually assaulted due to his budget cuts?



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