Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Walkergate: The State Budget Is In Crisis!....Or Is It?

In an ongoing series, this is another tale of Walkergate to help people understand that Scott Walker's scams, acts of corruption, examples of overreach and a myriad of other vile deeds of chicanery are only more evidence that nothing new is under the sun in Fitzwalkerstan and why Walker is not fit to be governor.

The Wisconsin State Journal is reporting that the UW System has to cut another $65.7 million from it's budget in order to make up for a deficit in the state budget. Scott Walker's personal hatchet man and number one henchman, Mike Huebsch, sent out a memo advising department heads that they have to make these cuts and that they could go higher.

However, the real kicker is buried a few paragraphs down:
Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch sent out a memo Friday to state agency heads saying they need to return $174.3 million in state funds. It could be as much as $300 million if state revenues are weaker than predicted, Huebsch wrote.
Walker and his Republican cohorts in the state legislature have already started carving to the bone with their draconian cuts.  And now they are looking at going even deeper.As an example: After cutting $445 million from Medicaid services like BadgerCare, SeniorCare and Family Care.  Now they are looking for another $110 million to be taken away from our most vulnerable citizens. This kind of thing is being carried on across the board, or so they tell us.  The one place they're not looking for cuts is in the generous tax breaks and giveaways they're lavishing on their campaign donors and wealthy friends.

A few of my contemporaries on the left side of the Cheddarsphere are besides themselves, and rightfully so at the implications of this bit of news.  It means not only more suffering for the general public in the loss of services, but it also will impact many more of the already beleaguered state workers, reducing their pay even further if not just out right lay offs.  This will in turn send the state economy into an ever deeper tailspin and drive more private sector companies, and their jobs, to seek better economic climates, like almost anywhere.

Some say that this proves that Walker and the Republicans were lying when they were crowing that they produced a balanced budget.  And that's a very understandable reaction.  Time and time again as Milwaukee County Executive, Walker has shown himself to be incapable of budgeting his way out of a brown paper bag.

But having lived under Walker's regime much longer than the most of the state, I am painfully aware that with Walker, all may not be as it seems.  Two glaring examples immediately come to mind.

Every year that Walker was Milwaukee County Executive, you could tell that it was June when Walker would announce that there was a budget crisis and that severe cuts would have to be made to balance the budget.  One year he even went so far as proposing closing all the pools, denying people, especially children, a chance to cool off in the extremely hot days of summer.

The only exception to the midyear budget crisis were his last couple of years when he would declare his budget crisis along with his wishes of Happy New Year.

In January of 2009, he declared that the county budget was already $15 million in the red and that severe action might be needed. By declaring a fiscal emergency, he was also able to do a power grab and make unilateral decisions without consulting the county board, much less get their approval. (Doesn't that sound familiar?)

By midyear, he decided that the emergency action required was to put every county worker on a shortened work week, cutting an hour off of every day, for an indefinite length of time.  The unions were outraged by this, rightfully so, and filed a class action grievance regarding this.  Their argument was that Walker overstepped his authority and was in violation of the contract and of previous rulings of the arbitrator, who said that such actions could not exceed 45 hours.

The case was heard and to no one's real surprise, except for maybe Walker and his faithful followers, the ruling went against Walker.  But there was something there besides the violation of the contract.  There was no real budget crisis after all:
The arbitrator also found other flaws with Walker's actions. These include the fact that Walker had failed to show that the County's projected deficit was severe enough to warrant such drastic actions. In fact, it was in the testimony that Walker's chief number cruncher, Steve Kreklow, admitted that the deficit was only one third the number of what Walker has been reporting. And even the new lower number of $4.5 million is almost seven times the number that the award-winning County Auditor found it to be.
As another tidbit of historical trivia, even then Walker refused to even sit down and do good faith bargaining with the unions. He would then blame the unions for failing to make concessions and use that as an excuse of his inability or refusal to craft a balanced budget.

Also, as another side note, Walker then went on to impose excessive amounts of furloughs on the workers. They also were ruled to be illegal and has now left the county with an additional problem as it's been ordered to pay back the money that was wrongfully taken from the workers. The judgement at that time was for more than $6 million with a 12% interest to be compounded daily. The county still hasn't paid it back to the workers.

Later that same year, with only two months left to the year, he announced that there was a sudden $3 million dollar deficit due to the incompetence of his management staff.  (Walker had known about it for months, but willfully failed to disclose that information until he could use it for his political advantage.)

Walker claimed that the only way to resolve this deficit was to lay off 180 workers, with the majority of them coming from the parks.  Some of the affected workers had been with the county for decades and were practically hysterical as they go their lay off notices.

This prompted the reaction he wanted when the county board fell all over itself, saying that they would find the savings in other places. Walker made a grand show of how magnanimous he was and rescinded the lay offs the very next day.

But now comes the part that shows how despicable Walker is and how he has no qualms about using sadistic, Machiavellian stunts for his political advantage.

It turns out that this whole thing was contrived.  He pulled it just before he was to have a major fund raiser.  He then went on a Madison radio station the following Monday and was laughing about the lay offs and admitted that it was a stunt to get the board to do his wishes.  The real kicker was that at the end of that year, there was an $8 million surplus showing that their were no need for the lay offs or the furloughs to begin with.

So, in summary, when Walker is saying that, only three months into his state budget, there is a deficit, there very well may be one.  He is that incompetent.  But it should also be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism, because there is an equal chance that it's just a gimmick in order to bleed the workers and the tax payers even more, before trying to privatize everything.

The sad part of it all is that whether it's a genuine or contrived deficit, it's the innocent people that will suffer for it, and not the real culprits.


  1. Great work, thanks. This was never anymore than income-redistribution, from the 99% back up to the to 1%.

  2. All too painfully present in the memories of Milwaukeeans -- but the truths of the past won't stop him from implementing his falsehoods now, and on the entire state this time.

    No, as you point out, not on the entire state -- just those portions of it that displease him, such as the UW campuses. Already the admins are having to meet to cope with the cuts that are coming down on UW students more than on anyone in the state. How so? The UWs are 7% of state GDP -- but Walker henchman Huebsch has ordered the UWs to take 38% of these new cuts.

    If your kid is in the UW, don't plan on the kid getting the classes to graduate "on time." You're on Walker time now.

  3. I would like to hear the tapes of the radio show you mention. Can you post them?

  4. When are the unions going to run with this information? There are too many middle-class fools out there with a "dog in the manger" attitude who think that destroying state workers will somehow benefit them.

  5. Anonymous 1:43, I know that a tape of the show once existed, but I was unable to find it again. It might have been scrubbed by now.

    Anonymous 10:38 - That is a question for the ages. Sadly, some of the union leaders are so calcified in their ways, they will not listen to fresh voices. And like many people in the state, they figured Milwaukee's problems were theirs alone and did not pay heed until it is too late. Many, especially in the Madison area, are still only worried only when it affects them personally and directly.

  6. Thank you for looking for the tape and for writing this most interesting blog.

  7. Hmmm... I agree that the state did not seem to pay attention to what had happened in Milwaukee prior to November 2010. I don't think Madison should be singled out as worse about this than any other area. Dane County did not vote for Walker.

  8. I was a WSEU steward and local union officer for many years. I knew the union was weak, but no one with power wanted to do anything about it. I am speaking of both the council and local levels. They were too obsessed with competition for more power and position within the union - fighting to be Captain of the Titanic, you might say.

    "The Enemy" was usually seen as the union dissident or a perceived rival for power. By contrast, management was seen by union leaders as colleagues. They never dreamed that their "colleagues" would declare all-out war against them one day. That's why the WSEU was not prepared for this fight.

    We've known for many years that state employees have a bad reputation in the rural and small town areas of the state, and the Republicans have encouraged and exploited this bias. What has the WSEU done about this? Nothing as far as I can see. Most of those fools are going to vote to retain Walker just to spite their fantasy enemy the State Employee.

  9. My general experience with unions (as a teacher) is that people did not want to get involved too much. They might attend education conferences, but were not into fighting for anything. Older teachers thought we were apathetic and worried aloud that we didn't realize that the benefits we enjoyed they had had to fight for. I guess they were right.

    It is human nature to not realize what you have until you lose it. I do not blame leadership, even if they were too cozy with management. I feel that the rank and file people paid their dues, but didn't really get involved. At least that is what I did.