Thursday, May 14, 2009

Walker Strikes Back

Scott Walker announced today that he was going to impose a five hour per week furlough on all county workers, with the exemption of those which work in 24 hour care positions, law enforcement officers and correction officers.

Being a county worker myself, I knew this day was coming. We had heard as early as March that he wanted a large cut in staffing by midyear. I felt it was a sure thing when both Mayor Tom Barrett and Governor Jim Doyle announced plans for furloughs and layoffs. After all, Walker couldn't allow a couple of Democrats out-weasel him!

Now, I am not happy about it. In fact, I am down right scared. But given the current economy, other people getting furloughed, if not laid off completely, I can't really complain. At least I am still working.

But this whole thing does raise quite a number of interesting questions and observations that I would like to have answered:

-For example, as you can imagine, since I do hold a couple of positions in the union, my phone has been ringing off the hook and my emails have been non-stop. I have been in contact with various union and county officials and other sources of information. No one but Walker can seem to find the actual deficit. No cabinet department heads, as far as I have learned yet, have reported a deficit, or even a projected deficit. This would be required by county ordinance that they report it within so many days. Is this just a fabricated deficit so that Walker can look tough and responsible to the right wing fringe?

-If the budget is in such dire straits, why hasn't he canceled his tax-payer funded campaign motorcycle ride?

-If the budget is in such dire straits, why hasn't he rescinded the overly generous raises he gave his cronies in his inner circle? This would include Tim Russell, who was his campaign manager at least twice while he was running for county executive. Russell is currently Walker's assistant chief-of-staff, and was previously the economic development director. It was in that job that he was supposed to bring in $7 million dollars in land sales, but brought in $250,000.

-Speaking of economic development, according to the article, Supervisor Schmitt criticizes Walker:
Supervisor James "Luigi" Schmitt criticized Walker's administration for submitting unrealistically optimistic budgets that later force action by the County Board. For example, Walker's budget for this year counted on $6 million from sales of county land, money that no longer is expected to materialize. The board included the figure in its 2009 budget.
How did Walker propose to sell that much land when he abolished the position of economic development director? It's hard to sell anything if you don't have a salesperson.

-Speaking of the paper's article, how did Steve Schultze get the news, do interviews (including Abelson, who is out of town on vacation), and write his story, have it edited, and have it posted by 4:49 pm, when we only were notified, via email, 45 minutes earlier. Furthermore, this was an updated report, which means he had done a story even earlier. Related to this is how did Preview McIlheran have his talking points so fast. It does make it seem more and more like a rehearsed publicity stunt than an actual crisis. Will he claim our lost wages as campaign donations?

-Speaking of the deficit, why was Walker claiming the $14 million dollars even before 2009 even started? Again, it does seem contrived.

-Doyle forced state workers to take 16 days, or 128 hours, of furlough over two years. Walker is forcing county workers to take 130 hours in six months. Does that mean Walker is four times worse at budgeting than Doyle?

-The paper reports that this furlough is a 12.5% cut for workers. County ordinance requires anything over 10% to go through the Board. Yet no one on the Board were aware of this before the workers were. Will this even stand? Will the Board finally take action against Walker for breaking the law, yet again?

-Whatever happened to the money designated for 717 positions which Walker never filled?

-The paper reports that part of the supposed deficit is due to overtime at the mental health complex, which was caused by staff shortages due to Walker cutting staff hours. So to cure the problem he is going to do more of the same?

-One has to wonder how much of the budget problem could have been alleviated if Walker hadn't obfuscated, obstructed and confabulated the issues around the stimulus funding.

-The usual suspects will express glee at the news. I wonder how the general public will feel when they recognize that this also means a 12.5% cut in services, and all of the ramifications that go with it.

-Walker told the paper it hasn't been decided on how to enforce the furloughs, but we have already been told that part of it.

-The article reports that the furloughs ""remain in full force and effect" until he issues another edict, the county executives' order states." Yet the email we received states "my intent is to return to normal working hours as soon as the County has resolved its 2009 funding gap." Either way, it is illegal. He is required to give specific starting and ending dates, not indefinite time lines such as these.

I don't know if these furloughs will stick, or if they do, in what form. But there are some bright sides for me personally if Walker does get his way. It will give me more time to do the things that need to be done, like cutting my dad's lawn, doing the grocery shopping, and getting a early start on trips up north. It will also give me time to work on a few special projects.

For Walker though it will have a couple of down sides to it. I think he will suffer a bigger backlash than he realizes when people, especially the elderly and the poor, start to feel the pain of his cutbacks in services. Another drawback for Walker is that it will also give me time to work on a few special projects.


  1. 1 hour day a week or 5 hours at 1 time.
    What does the union contract say? Is the union willingly to go to court to fight it?
    Here in Nevada, the state employees have a 1 day a month furlough, so you even have it worse. My sympathies, seriously.

  2. The contract, unfortunately, does not cover the subject. That ticks me off as well, since we went through the same dance with Walker in 2003 (he lost that time), so I would have thought that there would be some language in there for the inevitable return to this song and dance.

  3. I don't understand the point of the post.

  4. Anonymous, it's OK, you can admit you're really Scott Walker.

    But you really need to spend more than 31 seconds on this post. There are some big words that you might not know, like honesty or integrity.