PEOPLE-Local 645

  • Quality of Life Alliance

The 2010 Budget Crises Lessons (If You Believe in Pixies)

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on December 10, 2010

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that the deficit for theMilwaukee County Budget could now be as small as $700,000.  But that is only if the Board agrees to rob Peter to pay Paul and only if a few minor miracles happen to occur.

For the deficit to get that low, a number of things must happen:

  • The Board approves shifting $3.7 million from the pension fund to the general fund.
  • Health care costs remain low. (The Board has been advised that the savings from previous years were something they should not count on as being the norm.)
  • Sales tax revenues continue to climb.

There are other things that also have to take place before we can celebrate.  One is if the rulings on the multiple grievances, complaints and lawsuits filed by the unions all go in the County’s favor.  If not, the County, and the tax payers, could end up shoveling out millions of dollars for unfair labor practices, such as the differing number of furlough days dished out by Scott Walker and the bad faith bargaining committed by both Walker and members of the County Board.

The article does not indicate whether these numbers also take into account all of the emergency spending that took place because Walker was finally concerned about the building maintenance until he realized that having parts of county buildings falling on and killing children was bad for his gubernatorial campaign.

While the chance of all of these events occurring is slightly better than winning the lottery, it is still not something a wise person would want to hang their hat on as a surety.

It is also difficult to believe the numbers that come out of the current administration.

Last year, Scott Walker boasted of a $9 million surplus.  Milwaukee County First questioned that and rightfully so.  From the article:

The Fitch’s report notes that after four consecutive years of surpluses, the county’s budget dropped $5.2 million in the red in 2009 and is in danger of another deficit for this year.

By the county’s different accounting methods, it ran a surplus of $4.1 million last year, not a deficit, Kreklow said.

So, the $9 million went poof into thin air.  While Walker’s administration is still trying to claim a surplus (remember, those union complaints and lawsuits are still pending), an objective reviewer is showing a major deficit.

We probably won’t know the truth until well into next year, when the next county executive gets into office and has a chance to see what the real numbers look like.   But it is probably a good bet that those numbers will be written in red ink.

It’ll will take years, or even generations, to dig out of the hole Walker has dug us into.


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