Tuesday, November 18, 2008

County Budget Battle Enters Final Stage...Maybe

To quote the great Yogi Berra, it's like deja vu, all over again.

Walker submits a broken budget. The County Board fixes it. Walker takes it and breaks it again, in a showboat fashion. The County Board fixes it again.

It's been the same story for the past six years, with the exception of a couple years ago when Walker completely took himself out of the process by vetoing the whole budget, which the Board promptly put back into place. Interestingly enough, that was the year that the county had a $7 million surplus, which is much better than the usual midyear budget crisis that Walker's usually brings.

This year is no different. Walker presented a budget in which he tried to prostitute the County to the highest campaign donor bidder.

The County Board again took the adult position and tried to correct it as much as they could. The biggest slip up was their failure to restore the food service positions at the mental health complex. If you thought there was a high amount of injuries there last year, wait until they start serving green lunch meat and runny slop like the do at the House of Corrections after they privatized that food service.

Walker then issued his 30 vetoes, again putting the County out there for sale. If the gentle reader wishes to see the list of vetoes, and Walker's mealy-mouthed excuses for why he did them, I would refer you to the Badger Blogger, who was kind enough to provide a link. One of the more interesting and revealing ones is how quickly Walker threw his crony, Tom Nardelli, under the bus when he would have been solely accountable for giving him a 26% raise.

SIDENOTE: If Walker was truly interested in saving the County money, why hasn't he provided proof that Nardelli and Greg Gracz had signed waivers to the pension enhancers? In fact, why hasn't Walker had all the non-union employees sign the waiver? Dan Cody did some impressive homework, and found that the recent county employee that retired with a lump payment of over $800K was a non-represented employee, and also wonders why Walker and Sheriff David Clarke did not address this years ago.

Early signs look promising that most of the vetoes will be overridden by the County Board when they vote on them Wednesday afternoon, judging from the press releases they issued today. (I bet one veto they don't override is the one taking away Nardelli's raise.)

SIDENOTE II: One of the vetoes that Walker issued is to restore his plan to privatize the call center, giving the caseworker jobs to UW-Milwaukee, which pays higher than the County does. He also wants to give the phone answering jobs to IMPACT, which already runs the 211 phone line. Walker has cut that contract with IMPACT in each of his previous budgets. UW-M has already distributed job application forms to the county workers, but most of them are not eligible for the jobs (UW-M requires a Bachelor's Degree, the County requires only a high school diploma). This flies in the face of Walker's claims that they would get first dibs on the outsourced jobs.

Interestingly, there are many legal questions arising about how Walker went about doing his vetoes, including whether they are even legal, whether or not he was overstepping his authority, whether is vetoes are too vague in their meaning, and why Walker, as a County Executive, would have greater veto power than the governor.

SIDENOTE III: I noticed an interesting turn of events in the articles that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has run. On November 16th, the paper has this to say:
Walker said he'll attempt to resurrect as much of his outsourcing as possible and do what he can to persuade supervisors to switch sides before veto override votes Wednesday. He's planning to issue the vetoes late today.

On instances where the board does override his vetoes or he can't restore his original privatization language, he'll initiate discussions to find out whether there's room for compromises that could be implemented by midyear.

He wants to convene talks with County Board Chairman Lee Holloway, Supervisor Elizabeth M. Coggs and others by January to find out if there are ways to modify privatization efforts the board successfully keeps out of the budget, he said.


Walker said he also wants to meet with supervisors to attempt a compromise to revive a $500,000 study on privatizing operation of Mitchell International Airport. The board cut that from the budget.
On November 17th, the paper reports that Walker held another one of his showboating press conferences to announce his Frankenstein/Vanna White vetoes.

In the story that was put online tonight, Walker has this to say:
Walker said he wasn't lobbying supervisors to sustain his vetoes because he feared that strategy could backfire. He also said he was avoiding any provocative commentary in hopes that supervisors will go along with him on several privatization moves.
Did you follow that? First he says that he wants to talk to the Board and then he grandstands to announce his vetoes. Then he goes completely hypocritical and says he doesn't want to lobby the board or do anything provocative for fear of a backlash. And this guy thinks people aren't going to notice?

The truth is more likely he's afraid of drawing too much attention to his vetoes. He is probably hoping that no one, especially not the County Supervisors, will look at them too closely and notice how wrong-headed they are, or that they are legally questionable.

Unfortunately for him, most members of the Board are already onto his weaselly ways, and are prepared to do the right thing. I hope.

No comments:

Post a Comment