Friday, June 12, 2009

What Was He Thinking?

As has been my focus for most of this week, Milwaukee County Executhug Scott Walker announced that he wanted to have a combination of an indefinite 5 hour furlough and 310 union workers laid off to help resolve his imaginary fiscal crisis.

But is his solution really a solution? The evidence would say not.

With the furlough, both the union and the County Board did some number crunching and found that Walker's claim of saving $8.9 million was greatly exaggerated, by about $6 million.

As I mentioned a while ago, the County receives the majority of their funding from the federal and state governments. By cutting workers and work hours, Walker would be losing in a lot of revenue. The ration is about 2:1, meaning that for every three dollars in cuts, the County loses two dollars in revenue.

But even that was being generous. It turns out that 80-90% of any money that was given to the County, but is not spent, goes back. For the federal money, the rate of return is 100%. To give an example of what this means is that for the highway maintenance crew being furloughed, instead of the $283,387 that Walker is claiming would be saved the actual number is closer to $58,000. So for 39 families to run the risk of running into serious financial difficulties, including losing their house, and for the public to be put at harm's way due to neglected maintenance of the freeways, the County would only save $58K. And that does not take into any consideration of fines, penalties and/or lawsuits that could occur due to Walker's neglect.

Furloughing and/or laying anyone off at the airport makes just even less sense. It wouldn't save the taxpayers one red cent, as that the funding for the airport maintenance and staff is fully funded by the airlines. Any money not spent is returned to them in full, and the County runs a risk of being sued for failure to meet their contractual obligations. And I am sure that it would not impress visiting CEOs that might have been considering moving their companies here or even just doing business here. Why would they want the problems of an airport that couldn't handle their needs, just because Walker wanted to make a political stance against the unions?

The proposed layoffs are equally stunning and incomprehensible. For example, Walker has listed 76 AFSCME workers in the Department of Health and Human Services for lay off. DHHS consists of the Behavioral Health Division (mental health folks), Economic Support Division (Income Maintenance - the ones that were just taken over by the State), Child Care Enforcement, Juvenile Probation and Parole, and Disability Services (Adult Services).

BHD already has their own set of numbers for whatever reasons, so they are not part of the 76. Economic Support and Child Care Enforcement were taken over by the State and, due to the language involved with the take over, are immune from lay offs. That leaves Adult Services (my area) and Juvenile Probation. I'm not even sure that there are 76 AFSCME workers between the two sites. Even if there were, it would effectively eliminate both sites.

In other words, these lay offs, as proposed, would postpone Family Care (in violation of the state contract), and leave 6,000 disabled adults without services. It would also let an unknown number of teens that are supposed to be on probation to run wild with no system at all to keep tabs on them. So much for public safety.

And the idiocy doesn't stop there.

Walker, despite not having the authority to do so, has put in new tax hikes in his "budget rescue plan."

One of these includes starting a new $1 fee at county wading pools. Besides this being a new tax, which he does not have the authority to create, it is ludicrous. As Supervisor John Weishan stated in an article in Thursday morning's paper (which mysteriously cannot be found on JSOnline), "Scott Walker wants to create a new tax for toddlers."

Another idea of Walker's, which none of the local media sources have reported, is that Walker wants to close the indoor pools at Noyes and Pulaski Park. Not only are these the only two public indoor swimming pools, but they are often used by senior citizens who use them for water aerobics as well as making it just part of their regular exercise regimen. Many of the people who use the pools have already bought the $135 year round pass, and now Walker's is proposing to end their access to the pools. This is committing fraud to these people. They are not getting the services he promised them and that they paid for.

Wouldn't those make great talking points for Walker as he rides around on his taxpayer funded campaign bike ride: Vote for Walker: He taxes toddlers and robs senior citizens!

With his thuggish management style, his inability to tell the truth about anything, his endangering the public safety, taxing little kids and mugging senior citizens, is it a surprise to anyone that Governor Jim Doyle is beating Walker by 12%, according to the latest poll? Or that Walker is also sizing up to lose to Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton by 9%?

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