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Issue of the Week: Scott Walker’s ‘Risky’ County Budget

Plus Hero and Jerk of the Week

Oct. 20, 2010
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If you read Scott Walker’s 2011 budget for Milwaukee County, it’s all sunshine and light—until you look at the substance.

If you ask independent analysts, they’ll tell you that it’s extremely risky and unrealistic.

First there’s the unreleased report from the Greater Milwaukee Committee (headed by Walker’s campaign chair, Michael Grebe) that acknowledges that the county’s finances under Walker are so bad that the county should consider filing for bankruptcy.

Then the County Board’s fiscal research team concluded that Walker is deferring “difficult decisions” and his 2011 budget includes $24.5 million in employee and retiree concessions that have yet to be negotiated. “Realistically, these concessions will not be fully achieved by the first day of 2011 as the budget envisions,” the analysis notes. “More concerning is that some of these concessions may not be achieved at all in 2011.”

And if that doesn’t happen, then employees will be forced to take 26 unpaid furlough days in 2011, just like they’ve taken 26 unpaid furlough days in 2010. And up to 165 employees will be laid off if a pension contribution isn’t approved by Jan. 1, 2011.

Walker also relies on other “phantom savings” and legally questionable changes, yet is silent on the threatened layoffs’ effect on the county’s functioning.

Even more damning is the analysis done by the independent, nonpartisan Public Policy Forum (PPF), which is headed by a former member of Walker’s administration, Rob Henken. PPF’s report found that “each of the major budgeted savings” includes an element of risk. In addition to the employee concessions, Walker wants the county to stop paying the state for indigent health care, which likely would have to be approved by the state; not to reserve funds for its debt service; to earn an unrealistic amount of money for the sale of Doyne Hospital; and to earn $2 million from ads on buses, when the program hasn’t even been implemented. Walker also has included pharmaceutical savings that aren’t reliable.

“Indeed, this is the second consecutive county budget that has relied heavily upon huge savings that cannot be implemented unilaterally by policy-makers and/or that are surrounded with legal and practical questions,” PPF concluded.

What would it cost county taxpayers to fill up Walker’s budget gap? An estimated $37.44 for an average homeowner with two vehicles.

That amount would keep workers on the job and county services running. Yet Walker once again is punishing workers and promoting a fantasy instead of doing the hard work of governing.

Hero of the Week

Pamela McNealy

Through 25 years as a Milwaukee County social worker, Pamela McNealy witnessed firsthand the problems facing teens and young adults. Seeing a need to address the lack of safe, structured and caring environments for adolescent girls, McNealy took early retirement in 2003 and founded The Lemonade Stand.

Located in the heart of the city, the nonprofit group home offers programs and services to address the emotional, intellectual, social and physical needs of girls between the ages of 12-17, many of who have suffered from physical, verbal or sexual abuse or neglect.

The Lemonade Stand helps girls to develop positive coping and life skills that enable them to lead productive lives in the community. Readers who wish to help are directed to www.lemonadestandinc.org.

Jerks of the Week

Republican Governors Association and Other Vote Suppressors

Like the Republican Party of Wisconsin, the Big Oil-funded Astroturf group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and various tea party “patriot” groups, the national Republican Governors Association (RGA) is stirring up trouble before the Nov. 2 election. The deep-pocketed RGA has sent out official-looking mailers that include an absentee ballot—and an attack on the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Tom Barrett. These absentee ballots look like they’re from the city of Milwaukee’s Election Commission, but they’re not. They also include the recipient’s phone number and date of birth, which is just plain creepy.

The RGA ballots are a way to heighten fear and confusion about Democrats—and then seal the deal with an absentee ballot.

Don’t fall for this dirty trick. Nor should you fear registering to vote and going to the polls, no matter how scary it may seem because of those anonymously sponsored “voter fraud” billboards and the Republican Party-AFP’s coordinated voter suppression efforts in the city. You do have rights and you should know them. Go to the ACLU of Wisconsin’s website (www.aclu-wi.org) and check out their Wisconsin Voter Empowerment cards.


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