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Walker’s Delusions of Budgetary Grandeur

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on November 29, 2010

From Milwaukee County First:

Knowing that he had won the gubernatorial election, one might have hoped that out-going County Executive Scott Walker might have had at least the decency to pass a genuine budget, one that was balanced and legal, or at least made a plausible attempt at doing so.  But to realistically expect that from Walker would be the vainest of hopes.

When given the 2011 Adopted Budget from the County Board, Walker couldn’t resist reverting to his usual grandstanding and empty rhetoric, and proclaimed that he would use his veto pen to not only remove any increase in the tax levy, but to restore his campaign promise of cutting one million dollars from the levy.

Instead, just like last year, the only thing Walker did was increase the deficit built in the budget.  Predictably, he went about making false expectation regarding concessions from the union, even though he has refused to present them at the negotiating table for over two years.  He also slashed funding to renovate Moody Pool and to add the aquatic parks to Noyes and Pulaski Pools.  He also slashed the money to upgrade Kosciuszko and King community centers.

All Walker has done is given the can one more kick down the road before he makes his escape from the impending disaster he has created.  The fact that the  bulk of Walker’s “savings” comes from concessions not yet negotiated means that they are not savings at all.

Walker claims that he thinks it is only fair that the county employees share in the pain that many private sector workers felt.  The odd thing is that even though Walker states this, he has not actually done anything to back that up, such as issuing it as a proposal to the union.

Instead, he has done bad faith bargaining, as was the ruling of an administrative judge just last month.  In spite of this, Walker has done the same thing again this year, jeopardizing services and endangering the tax payers, who will have to foot the bill for his political posturing.

But as disappointing as it is that Walker chose to take the low road of political convenience even up to the very end, it is not surprising.  If nothing else, anyone watching him over the past few years would know he does nothing if it is not to his political advantage.

What might be as great, or even greater, disappointment, is the reaction of the County Board. The Board is normally the sanity in County government, providing balance and adding maturity to Walker’s irresponsible budgets.  But for the past two years now, they seem to have forgotten themselves.

In 2006, the Board was also dealt a miserable excuse of a budget from Walker.  But then they took this mess and tore it apart and rebuilt it into a functioning, legal budget which no one truly liked but everyone could live with.  Walker, in his first run for governor, made a huge spectacle of his stunt of vetoing the entire budget.  The Board overrode his veto and the County had its best financial year in the past decade.

Last year, the Board, seemingly having lost their spirit to represent the County, caved in and went along with Walker’s illegal budget.  The County is now looking at a minimum of an $8 million deficit which will bite us all in the 2012 budget.  Despite being fully aware that this budget had the same legal and budgetary shortfalls, the majority of the Board went along with it.

What makes the Board’s stance, or lack thereof, even more surprising is that they are the ones that will be getting the calls and complaints when people’s taxes go up and yet key services start getting slashed to making the community unsafe.

I certainly hope that the Board soon recognizes the fact that Scott Walker is not interested in helping Milwaukee County and that they again remember who they are and start taking action, including engaging the unions in good faith bargaining and trying to gain some of the concessions needed to balance this miasmic budget to the best of their ability.



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