Thursday, June 25, 2009

They Know Not Of Which They Speak

Again, the editorial board at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel shows that they are either completely obtuse to the goings on in Milwaukee County or that they are so far in the tank for Scott Walker that they do not care.

In this morning's editorial, they admonish the County Board and Walker for not working together in a more productive way. That is the closest they come to a rational sentence in the entire piece.

They try defend Walker's poor behavior, which was based on a grossly overestimated budget deficit:

Walker has to judge matters by the numbers he is given - and the early year numbers were bad, which was to be expected. He may have jumped the gun, and the frustration of county supervisors is understandable.

But Walker acted based on the numbers he had in front of him at the time; that's prudent in this economic climate - maybe even overly cautious - but it's not dishonest or in bad faith, as some supervisors have argued. While the numbers look better now, there is still uncertainty. Walker's office does say that he will rescind the 35-hour workweek order if other savings reduce the shortfall further.

Anyone that has ever done a budget realizes that the beginning of the fiscal year is always bad. This is especially true for the County. Much of the County's revenue comes in during the warmer months, when the golf courses, the pools, the zoo, and park pavilion and picnic area rentals start flowing in.

What Walker was doing would be the equivalent of someone starting out the year adding up their mortgage, taxes, projected energy costs, projected food costs, etc. and then saying they are in a deficit because they did not get all of the year's paychecks by March 31st. Obviously that is a ludicrous way to run a home or a governmental body.

They also try to argue that furloughs still may be the best answer to the remaining deficit projection by Walker's people. But they are forgetting two key things.

The first thing is that one cannot count on Walker for accurate numbers. From the newspaper earlier this week, we see this (emphasis mine)

Another estimate of Milwaukee County's finances released Monday shows a projected county budget shortfall of $4.4 million for 2009.

The figure is $10.5 million lower than the $14.9 million deficit figure Walker relied on to justify imposing the 35-hour workweek and other cuts. The shorter workweek, which amounts to a 12.5% pay cut for the last half of the year, has been challenged by the county's largest union.

The unpaid furloughs would save the county $4.5 million this year but are not included in the new estimate. The new budget shortfall figure was included in a report by Steven Kreklow, the county's budget administrator.

The editorial board apparently does not find it at all interesting or suspicious that in just two months, the County somehow miraculously found $10.4 million. For Walker's numbers to be that far off already shows that his staff is either incompetent and/or liars. Either way, it is hard to find fault with the County Board for not trusting Walker's numbers.

Also missing from the editorial board's thinking process is the fact that the county is still in negotiations with the unions. Based on the stunts that Walker pulled last time, it would not be a big jump to presume that settling the contract would solve this years problems and go a long way towards next years as well. As I wrote last week:

Settle the contract negotiations

This alone could cover the majority of the deficit, if not entirely, for the 2009 budget.

When it came time to negotiate the 2006-8 contract, Walker stalled then as well. After he finally dropped out of the 2006 gubernatorial primary, Doyle sent Dave Reimer (Walker's 2004 opponent for the county executive race) to act as a mediator. Not only did the contract end up being almost identical to the union's original offer, Walker ended up giving everyone a $250 signing bonus.

The county's number crunchers estimated that the county lost several millions of dollars in lost savings by the delay in the contract settlement. the savings came from a higher share of health care payments by the workers, as well as a protracted pay raise schedule.

Based on what I know of his behaviors in this go around, he did not learn from that lesson.

And for those who just may have an irrational hatred of the union, and don't think a mutually advantageous contract is possible, I would simply refer you to the story of the State of Pennsylvania and AFSCME Council 13 and other unions, in which an entire state's budget was helped and there were no furloughs.

All it takes is both sides to sit down and do some honest, good faith bargaining. I know AFSCME is ready and willing. Is Walker?
I guess that makes too much sense. Nor does it do enough to allow Walker to keep up his pretense of being a person competent to be county executive, much less governor.

But what really got me riled were these lines:

What's not needed is more bickering between the executive and the board. Nor is the answer a power grab by the County Board, as proposed this week by Supervisor Michael Mayo Sr.

What's needed instead is a board and an administration that work together to solve serious problems.
Is the editorial board really that far gone? Their own newspaper has been reporting for the past two weeks incident after incident in which Walker has stepped over the line, abused the power of his office, and showed a general disregard to the best interest of the County or its citizens. They can't even bring themselves to mention that Walker has spent the last week riding around the state campaigning (using illegal corporate contributions to do so).

Nor do they offer a solution to what the County Board should do regarding the fact that Walker and his staff have repeatedly been demonstratively and unarguably flat out lying to the Board about everything from the supposed deficit to the stimulus dollars to the annual budget proposals.

There is no reason why the County Board, or the citizens of Milwaukee, should have to tolerate continuously being fed false information

The editorial board also seems to conveniently forget the fact that Walker has already attempted an illegal power grab of his own in which he tried to set policies such as taxing toddlers and robbing the elderly. And it will be soon decided whether he illegally tried to impose a furlough and/or layoffs on the workers.

These continuously false representations of the truth and their constant pandering to Walker makes me wonder one thing: Why do I keep subscribing to them?

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