Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Walker's Chickens Coming Home To Roost

A few weeks ago, I lamented Walker's poor planning and his willful, malicious neglect of the public assistance call center. Just a few hours ago, I shared my thoughts on the County Budget so far, again echoing my concerns.

This morning, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel shows us what his brand of fiscal conservatism is going to cost the County. Due to his refusal to adequately staff the call center, people were being denied timely service. This prompted a lawsuit which will probably become a class action in short order. This will probably cost tax payers a pretty penny.

The MJS tells us now that the State of Wisconsin is not going to reward the County a jobs training grant that would have brought in $2.3 million dollars a year. The reason the State gave was that the County was doing such a poor job with the food stamp program.

And why was the County doing such a poor job with the food stamp program? You guess it. Because Walker refused to fill the positions that would have allowed the job to have been done properly in the first place. From the article (emphasis mine):

The state decided to deny the county the job training contract so the county could focus on improving the food stamp program, Timberlake said in her letter.

Corey Hoze, the county's human services director, said Timberlake overstated the county's food stamp error rate. He said the county was attempting to persuade the state to relent on shutting the county out of running the training program.

Similar complaints about delays and unfair denials of services to the poor also are at the heart of a federal lawsuit against the county filed over the summer. Thirteen Milwaukee County residents are suing the county and the state over allegations of excessive delays in processing benefit applications, reviews and other parts of the bureaucratic maze. The plaintiffs are asking that the case be certified as a class-action suit on behalf of all eligible aid recipients in the county.

As a result of the county's missteps, deserving clients have been denied food stamps or health care through the state Medicaid or BadgerCare programs - or got benefits only after excessive delays, the lawsuit states. The county has inadequate staff to handle applications and verifications for the benefits, the lawsuit states.

For example, Shira Raymond, one of the plaintiffs in the case, was due an increase in food stamps when her husband lost his job in January, the lawsuit says. The increase should have gone into effect in March but didn't until April, which resulted in the family not having enough food, the complaint said.

The county has denied the charges, but acknowledged employee vacancies - which the lawsuit says is a key reason for the problems.

Walker's refusal to fill those positions did not save the taxpayer one cent. The positions were already funded. Lord only knows what Walker really did with the money that should have been spent there, since he has claimed that there is a deficit in the 2008 budget. But not only did Walker fail to save the taxpayers any money, but he has just cost the $2.3 million dollars a year by failing to meet the basic requirements of the food stamp program, thereby losing the job training program. And this is not counting the money that will have to be spent defending the lawsuit (and that will go up if it becomes a class action), but any money that will be lost stemming from the lawsuit if the plaintiffs were to win.

How is that good fiscal management? It also raises two more questions: Was this an act of deliberate sabotage, in an effort to privatize the call center and gain political favor (and financial favors) from the private sector, or was it mere malicious negligence? And why hasn't he been recalled yet?

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