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  • Quality of Life Alliance

Supervisors Fear A Walker Double-Cross

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on December 23, 2010

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that the Milwaukee County Board is nervous about next year’s budget.  They should be worried, for more reasons than one:

Milwaukee County supervisors Monday glumly assessed their prospects for getting any financial help from the state with County Executive Scott Walker about to take over as governor and Republicans taking control of the Legislature.

“It’s not going to be a pretty picture,” said Supervisor Mark Borkowski during a review of a series of programs for which the county’s 2011 budget assumes millions in state aid that might not materialize. “Milwaukee County is just like a sitting duck” about to get blasted by bad budget news, he said.

Democrats representing the bulk of Milwaukee County at the state Capitol “don’t have any power” as a result of the elections, said Supervisor John Weishan Jr. Republican lawmakers with only a sliver of Milwaukee County in their districts “have demonstrated a lack of ability to act on behalf of Milwaukee County,” Weishan said during a meeting of the County Board’s Intergovernmental Relations Committee.

“We have to prepare ourselves that we are all by ourselves in the dark here,” Weishan said. “No one is going to come to our rescue.”

With the state’s own budget nightmare – a $150 million deficit for the current fiscal year and a potential $3.3 billion shortfall for the next two-year budget – its ability to help strapped counties is likely limited, supervisors said. While Walker understands Milwaukee County’s fiscal challenges, he’s also pledged to balance the state budget without raising any taxes. That makes extra county aid a tough sell, supervisors said.

The Board approved a second illegal budget that has a gaping hole in it.  Part of this built in deficit is $6.8 million in the form of an unfunded bill to Badger Care Plus for the mental health complex.  The Supervisors are afraid that along with the fact that they shouldn’t expect any help from the state, Scott Walker, who included that nonpayment in his budget, might change gears on them and suddenly demand the payment:

Among the concerns was whether the state would continue to require a $6.8 million county payment toward the expanded BadgerCare program. Walker and the County Board did not fund the payment in the 2011 county budget.

“If the state were to impose this payment, the effect (on mental health programs) would be devastating,” a report to supervisors from the county’s lobbyists says.

Geri Lyday, interim director of the Health and Human Services Department, said if the county had to make the $6.8 million BadgerCare payment, it would force mental health programming cuts such as closing or downsizing units at the Mental Health Complex.

Given Walker’s propensity to taking the most politically opportunistic route available as well as his long history of disdain and neglect of Milwaukee County’s most vulnerable citizens, one could easily understand the Supervisors’ concern in this regard.

That said, the Supervisors might very well be looking in the wrong direction.  For Walker not to budget payment of this bill as county executive and then turn around and demand payment as governor would be highly unethical.  More important to Walker, though, is the fact that it would make him look really bad and hypocritical, to say the least.

It is much more likely that Walker won’t demand this money from Milwaukee County.  Instead, it is more probable that Walker will take his pound of flesh from Milwaukee County in the form of a more severe cut in mutual funding.  That way, Walker will be able to balance the state’s budget on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens while maintaining the pretense of caring about the same people he is about to stab in the back.

Either way, it is going to be a rough slough of things for the next few years.  The new county executive, whoever he or she might be, will have to face the double indemnity of a illegally deficit-ridden budget with a draconian cut in the aid it gets from Walker and the state in shared revenue.

That is why it is all the more important that in the spring, Milwaukee County citizens vote for the person with a plan on how to cope with the impending fiscal disaster that is coming our way without losing anything in vital services.

 

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