Steven Walters
The State of Politics

Walker Says Act 10 Was About “Local Control”

Gearing up for election, he says controversial law helps school boards focus on education rather than “union grievances.”

By - Feb 3rd, 2014 10:11 am
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Gov. Scott Walker

Gov. Scott Walker

Hours after his fourth State of the State speech, Republican Gov. Scott Walker offered an election-year explanation for the Act 10 fight over collective bargaining that roiled the Capitol – and the state – and drew worldwide attention exactly three years ago.

The Act 10 fight was not just about breaking public employee unions, or having public employees pay more for health care and pensions, Walker told an education summit in Milwaukee. And, Walker added, he didn’t push Act 10 at the behest of special-interest groups.

Instead, it was purely a “local control” issue, the first-term governor insisted.

Previewing how he will try and deflect Democrats’ criticism of Act 10 before the November election, Walker said “empowering” local elected officials was more important than the money schools, local governments and state government saved by having workers pay more for benefits.

“Long term, the much greater impact than balancing budgets was putting the power back into the hands of the people duly elected to lead our school districts, our local governments and our state government,” Walker said. “You should be the ones that make the decisions.”

For example, Act 10 “empowered” school board members, administrators and principals to focus on – instead of union grievances  — student achievement, curriculum, and helping staff members focus on educating children, the governor said.

Repeating a theme in his book, Unintimidated, Walker said lessons he learned during his eight years as Milwaukee County executive led to the push for Act 10. It prohibits public employee unions, except for firefighters and police officers, from bargaining for more than cost-of-living raises. (The Supreme Court is scheduled to rule on a second challenge to Act 10 before it takes its summer break.)

But history shows that elected state officials often use the “local control” argument to justify changes they want to make. And everyone defines the term differently.

Local elected officials have been fighting governors and legislators who want to pre-empt their powers for 115 years, said Dan Thompson, a veteran of decades of Capitol wars as the executive director of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities. “It is true that Act 10 restored local control over general government employees and gave local officials more leverage over public safety unions,” Thompson says.

But, he adds, “It is also true that we have lost control over other items in the last two budgets.”

Why? “Local control erodes faster when one party controls the governor’s office and both houses of the Legislature,” Thompson explains. “Local control erodes slower when power is divided in the state Capitol.”

Since 2011, Republicans have run the executive and legislative branches of state government. Democrats had that same power in 2009-10.

For more than 20 years, with only one exception, no party dominated the Capitol. Notes Thompson: “Divided political power from 1986 until 2008 made it difficult for either Democrats or Republicans … to gather enough votes to interfere with local control.”

Asked to list how Republicans have eroded local government powers over the last three years, Thompson and others offered several examples:

*Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors: Last year, Republicans cut the powers, budget, staff and pay of Milwaukee County supervisors. The pay cut must be approved by voters at a referendum this year, however.

*Residency rules for local government workers: Republicans rewrote state law so residency cannot be a condition of employment for local government workers. The change also says police officers, firefighters and emergency responders can be required to live within 15 miles of a municipal boundary, however.

*To control property tax bills, Walker and the Legislature have continued strict tax-levy limits on local governments. Another change requires a city to reduce its tax levy by what it collects for garbage collection, fire protection, snow plowing and street sweeping.

*Republicans have limited the ability of local governments to regulate landlords and dictate where cell phone towers can be built.

*Election laws: Republicans required voters to sign poll books, ended straight-ticket voting and imposed new deadlines on when absentee ballots must arrive, and be postmarked, to be counted. Several other controversial election-law changes have passed the Assembly, says Manitowoc  County Clerk Jamie Aulik.

Republicans also pushed another change, which would have dramatically limited the ability of local governments to regulate controversial sand mines. That proposal died, however.

Steven Walters is a senior producer for the nonprofit public affairs channel WisconsinEye. Email stevenscwalters@gmail.com

38 thoughts on “The State of Politics: Walker Says Act 10 Was About “Local Control””

  1. Chris Byhre says:

    So to sum this up, Act 10 “eroded local government powers” by reducing the pay and budget of the equally corrupt and inept Milwaukee County Board. Further, it calls for the taxpayers of all people, to vote on this pay cut. It allowed some city employees the opportunity to live outside the city if they wanted (great way to avoid MPS). If local government powers are “eroded” and the result is more individual liberty, a majority of people see this as a huge positive. It also put limits on how cities are allowed to tax their residents including the fees that politicians like Tom Barrett love to tack on to the most basic of services. Another great example of how the taxpayer is being looked out for . The minor election changes really have no effect but are a move in the right direction in an effort to stop vote fraud. The only person that Walters asked about these changes was Walker Recall signer Jamie Aulik. Great job of presenting the story in an unbiased fashion Steve. I would not have been surprised if he contacted the Burke campaign for comment as well.

  2. old baldy says:

    Chris Byhre:

    There are a lot more examples of how this administration has removed control from the locals, or have bills pending to do so. Mining, frac sand, wind turbines, hi-cap wells to name a few. And much of Act 10 was a one shot deal as far as saving to locals. And any saving have been more than offset by cuts to school aids and shared revenue. And I don’t have to talk to Burke, I’m a elected local official.

  3. Chris Byhre says:

    Pending bills mean nothing if they have not been passed. Act 10 was far from a one shot deal. It ended the conflict of interest that passed for ‘negotiations’ between unions and local government. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been saved and it will continue since taxpayers will no longer be held hostage to outrageous union demands. Maybe if we did not have so many local politicians whose only solution to budget deficits that they helped create is to raise taxes, all this would not have been necessary. So as a local elected official you are upset that Walker had to help you solve some of your fiscal issues? A simple thank you would suffice.

  4. old balsy says:

    CB:

    You obviously don’t have much experience with how Act 10, and cuts to shared revenue and school aids affected local governments. We didn’t look at our public employees and teachers as the adversary, but as partners in our endeavors. Maybe that is a function of rural northern WI. Act 10 changed that for us. Our county had not had a rate increase in the last 3 budgets pre Act 10. Now we have had two in a row to offset cuts in shared revenue from the state and decreasing valuations. We have also almost exhausted our “rainy day fund” to keep those increases to a minimum. But that can’t go on forever. Folks still want their snow plowed and salted.

  5. Chris Byhre says:

    The only thing that is obvious is that you don’t know how to manage a budget effectively. I did not say that public employees were adversaries so I have no idea where you came up with that. However, there is no doubt that your ‘partners’ were getting greater benefits then you, and most other local entities, could afford. Thankfully Act 10 was set up to save you a lot of money.

  6. old baldy says:

    Chris:

    I guess we can agree to disagree. But I’ll take my experience in local government up here over your talking points.

    And you are correct, you didn’t mention any adversarial relationship with public employees. But our current leadership in Madison did on a number of occasions. Look it up. As far as our ability to manage a budget, you don’t know anything about our county budget, so you really can’t speak to that with any authority. Ditto with our school board.

    The real indicator of your lack of knowledge is your inability to address the long-term implication of both Act 10 and cuts to shared revenue and school aids. All you have done so far is spout talking points, and you probably have never had any real-life experience to back them up.

  7. Chris Byhre says:

    If by ‘real life experience’ you mean, actually preparing budgets, making payroll, handling benefits and human resources and running a company, then yes Baldy, I have 15 years of running my own business. I realize that to you government types working outside the protection and comfort of a cozy government gig with little to no accountability might not appear to be real life experience. However, I can assure you that the people you (mis)represent would consider my experience to be as real as it gets. Your excuse making for a lack of being able to budget properly has gotten stale. Also, if you want to talk about ‘leadership’ of groups in this state creating an adversarial relationship all one needs to do is look back on the thuggish behavior of many WI and National Unions during the discussion of Act 10. You are right, I do not know anything about your county budget because you have not mentioned what county you are from so it would be impossible for me to know. It sounds like you are really struggling and are in need of some help. Let us know what county you live in and we can try to help you dig out of the mess you have created?

  8. Joanne Brown says:

    Chris Byhre, the “business” of government, which provides services to citizens, is nothing like whatever your own business is.

    If your revenue falls short, you just don’t provide as much, right? You cut a worker here or there and don’t provide as many hours of service or produce as many widgets. Or if you want to give raises to everyone and you have good sales, you might raise your prices. Your demand is elastic — it can change depending on price and on economic conditions.

    The demand for basic government services — road maintenance, snow plowing, garbage pickup (where government does that), maintenance of parks, public education, safe drinking water, building permits, building inspections — is inelastic. The city or county cannot say, “We’ll just stop plowing half the roads,” or “We’ll issue building permits only in May and September” because people demand that government continue to function all the time.

    When the state reduces the shared revenue paid to local governments and school districts, as Wisconsin has in the last few years, the local governments need to make up for the lost revenue. They do that through local taxation, as limited as it may be under the limitations imposed by a heavy-handed legislature and governor.

    The financial difficulty of local governments is nothing to do with budgeting, and everything to do with extreme limitations on their ability to raise money, limitations imposed by a Republican party intent on starving local governments of the dollars they need to do a good job.

  9. old baldy says:

    Joanne:

    Thank you so much for the great comment and description of the situation.

    Keep up the good work.

  10. Chris Byhre says:

    Joanne, what you need to learn is that you need to make cuts when times are tough. This would be a real world example for you. Employees need to be cut, wages and benefits need to be cut and yes, sometimes some services also might need to be cut. The state has given local government the tools necessary to balance budgets and in some cases create a surplus due to Act 10 while maintaining services. Baldy and other elected officials inability or unwillingness to do so signals that change is necessary on the local level. This change will happen at the ballot box. The only limits the Republicans have placed are on the ability of the government to dig deeper into the pockets of hard working taxpayers.

  11. old baldy says:

    Chris:

    Once again you make a very simplistic argument to solve a very complex issue. All you do is recite walker’s talking points. Just repeating it over and over doesn’t make it true. Are you his speech writer?

    I agree, if change is needed, let’s get somebody new elected. But I must be doing OK as I am unopposed again this year.

    Living a northern and rural county, do you want me to quit plowing snow? And do you want me to take on additional liability for accidents that may be due to snow covered roads? I’m not.

    Do you want me to curtail police protection and take on additional liability for failure to respond in a timely manner to an emergency? I’m not.

    The state has given us some “tools”, alright. but they are all metric in an SAE world.

  12. Chris Byhre says:

    No, not a speechwriter for anyone actually. All you do is recite excuses. Obviously since I have not seen your budget it is difficult for me to give you the help that you appear to need. You are unable or unwilling to use the tools given to you so maybe it is time for someone else to do the job. Obama somehow won 2 elections so I don’t think re-elections always signify competence. Of course you cite a few examples that are important and probably can not be cut. I would imagine your county provides other services and has other departments where there is fat to be trimmed. Stop looking for taxpayer bailouts and do the job you have been elected to do (and that no one else up there wants apparently).

  13. Bill Kurtz says:

    Somebody asked me why the state is pre-empting local control on so many issues. I told them it was because it’s easier and more efficient for Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce to buy one state legislature than who knows how many local entities.
    And a question and comment for Chris Byhre. Why don’t you run for a local office yourself? And, hard as it may be for you to believe, not every local officeholder was lusting to be unleashed by Act 10 to go to war with their employees. (They’re not all New Berlin school board members.)

  14. Chris Byhre says:

    Bill, I am really happy with my current job situation and have no interest in running for local office, I hope that answers your question. It is not hard for me to believe that many local politicians are owned by the unions and therefore were not interested in all of the good things Act 10 offered the citizens of Wisconsin. Asking for a few concessions is hardly war. Any of the union members who are now paying for more of their benefits but are unhappy with their jobs are free to look for another job. Maybe you can encourage them to run for office.

  15. old baldy says:

    Mr./Ms, Byhre:

    If you have some many great ideas to make your local government more efficient and productive, please heed Bill Kurtz’s advice and run for office. Anything less would be a positive sign that you really have no faith in your ideas. Walk the talk. To sit on the sidelines and snipe at those of us trying to make the system work is cowardice and hypocrisy at it’s finest.

    And for your information, there are no unions left in our county other than police. So you can’t call us “owned by the unions”.

    I would encourage anyone to run for office and to get involved and share their time and talent. They can have a thankless job at less than minimum wage (based on $/hr I make about $4.55/hr ) and be open to criticism from the the willfully ignorant and uninformed as well as Madison politicians.

  16. Chris Byhre says:

    Baldy, you are a typical politician who does not like to hear any feedback from the electorate. Work to rescind the First Amendment to the Constitution or learn to deal with dissent. I stand by my ideas and my beliefs. It is one of the reasons I use my full name on this site and do not hide behind a pseudonym. I also said that many politicians are owned by unions, I never mentioned you specifically. So you are unhappy with the money you make and you don’t like people who disagree with you, why are you in a public office? You obviously do not have the temperament nor the skills (based on your budget woes) to handle this job. You state that your job is “thankless” (fyi many jobs are) and you are open to criticism, so what? You ran for the job 3 times, it must hold some allure or maybe you just can’t find anyone else who would hire you. I have no interest in any public office, I am just a concerned citizen who is freely expressing his opinions in a forum. If you don’t like them you do not have to read them.

  17. Joanne Brown says:

    It seems that Mr/Ms Byhre is one of those folks who is never wrong and knows everything, regardless of the reality. S/he ignores the fact that the Act 10 “tools”cannot be used over and over again, and posits contradictions. The suggestion that services can be maintained while cutting budgets and staff is nonsensical to me — and likely to baldy and others who are actually involved in governing, as opposed to criticizing — but people spout nonsense all the time.

    So be it, Chris B. You have ideas and beliefs, it is clear. Enjoy them.

  18. old baldy says:

    Joanne:

    Thank you for voicing your astute observations. It should be clear to all that Chris really hasn’t a grasp of how government works. S/he must have skipped those days in Civics class and Local Government Day. It is a shame not to take full advantage of the wonderful educational opportunities offered by public schools in WI.

    And while Chris likes to stir the pot without getting too close to the fire, we elected officials actually make the soup.

    As far as feedback and accountability goes, that must have been another skipped Civics class for Chris. We are held accountable and receive the ultimate in feedback every election day. Please come vote this spring, the first Tuesday in April.

  19. Chris Byhre says:

    Act 10 curtailed collective bargaining for some unions. In turn the union members had to pay more for some of their benefits. It is estimated that Wisconsin municipalities will save between $750 million and $1.2 billion dollars per year due to Act 1o. This savings will continue as long as Act 10 is in place Joanne, not just for one budget cycle. I never said I knew everything so why make such a reckless assumption? Baldy, your whining and complaining (about your pay and lack of appreciation) do little to further your cause. I appreciate your interest in my academic pursuits. I did not skip any classes and actually took a lot of Civics and Government classes on my way to a Political Science degree. I passed on public schooling and instead thrived during 16 years of private schooling. It is important that people vote in April as well as next November when we get our chance to reaffirm our support of Scott Walker and Act 10.

  20. old baldy says:

    Chris:

    We have heard your talking points, and they may work in your reality, but not out here where the commoners live.

    As far as Act 10 goes, that isn’t the way it worked and we won’t continue to save money as long as it is in place. But you can do your own (independent) research and find out that is the case.

    But more to the point. Your “I’m the smartest guy/girl in room” attitude just doesn’t make it where we live. Things need to get done, decisions made, progress achieved (maybe not to your standards) and lives lived. Your continued criticism of things you obviously don’t understand is what scares me about the future of governance in WI.

  21. Joanne Brown says:

    I thoroughly understand that Act 10 will persist beyond a single budget cycle. But what you call “savings” to local governments are really a mask for a loss of state revenue through cuts to shared revenue and school aids.

    The local governments are still responsible for the provision of services to their citizens. The school districts are still responsible for providing a free public education. (It’s in the state constitution, you know, so they can’t just slough it off.)

    I understand that Act 10 gave local governments a one-time opportunity to reduce their budgets by passing off costs to the employees. And it was a good thing they could do that, since their own revenues, and their own ability to raise revenue, were cut by state legislation.

    But even after that one-time cut, the cost of providing services goes up — the cost of getting children to school by bus, the cost of gas for fleet vehicles to plow the roads, the cost to heat the municipal buildings, the cost of equipment and maintenance, and so on. And sometimes the local governments want to give their employees raises, by golly, to recognize a job well done. Even if those raises don’t come close to covering the increase in insurance premiums the employees are now responsible for, or the increases in their co-pay, the raises are good for morale, which any business person should recognize.

    The state legislature and governor have seen to it that the local governments cannot raise property taxes by more than the value of new property within city limits (that hurts Milwaukee especially hard of course, since Milwaukee is built up), and in times of recession and economic distress, there’s not a lot of new property in many parts of Wisconsin. So there’s not much to do to raise money through the property tax.

    The state legislature and the governor have restricted local governments from imposing fees for services, too. So they can’t raise money that way.

    This is what you wrote: “Employees need to be cut, wages and benefits need to be cut and yes, sometimes some services also might need to be cut. The state has given local government the tools necessary to balance budgets and in some cases create a surplus due to Act 10 while maintaining services.”

    That is contradictory. It sounds like you think that MORE cuts should be enacted each year but that the local governments can do that while maintaining services.

    They can’t.

    The cuts have been made. Most of the smaller governmental units have gone the route of reducing the maintenance in the parks, consolidating services, and all the other ways to save money. They did it even before Act 10 as a way to be responsive to their citizens. (The rural school districts in particular have done an incredible job.)

    The counties and municipalities have already used the Act 10 “tools” to cut their budgets from the level the budgets were at before Act 10. The annual savings you refer to are from cuts that have already been made. That’s why class sizes are larger, for instance. There are already fewer teachers.

    There are no additional “tools” to use without drastic loss of services. You don’t get to cut billions more every year without penalty.

  22. Chris Byhre says:

    Joanne, thank you for presenting some thoughtful responses. I know that state aid has been cut. In some parts of the State it been made up for by the savings from Act 10 and sometimes even led to a surplus. In other areas it has not and there are serious budget implications. This recession has been very hard on the private sector as well. We have the lowest labor participation rate in over 30 years and it was just announced yesterday that Obamacare is going to result in at least 2,000,000 more people dropping out of the workforce. My point is, we are facing really tough economic times which call for some tough decisions. Everyone, including government, must live within their means. I said earlier that things like pay, benefits, and services have to be cut in tough times. All counties and municipalities in WI are not the same, just as all businesses are not the same. Some are going to have to make serious cuts and some won’t. I believe that a lot of the restrictions that have been placed on local governments ability to raise taxes and fees are a reaction to the some of those municipalities inability to properly control or govern themselves when the restrictions were not in place . We may not like the choices presented to us but those are the realities that we face in the economy of today.

  23. old baldy says:

    Joanne:

    You did a great job explaining the situation. Some folks get it, others don’t.

    Chris:

    Please provide a credible independent source for your claim that 2 million more people will be dropping out of the workforce due to the Affordable Health Care Act.

    One of the many things you forget to take into account in your “cut, cut, cut” argument is that many things that local units of government do are mandated by higher powers. We can’t just stop providing services for those programs. Human services is a prime example. The court system is another. And the list goes on. School districts are in the same predicament.Your solution is unworkable.

    Another issue you have repeatedly failed to address is the loss of shared revenues from the state to the locals. That has been the WI for years. Tommy Thompson really changed the system to lower property taxes and make up the difference with shared revenue. Now Madison has cut shared revenue and removed the local ability to raise operating funds. That goes back to the gist of the article; loss of local control.

  24. Andy says:

    It’s pretty far off topic… but to answer for Chris…

    Obamacare will push 2 million workers out of labor market: CBO

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/feb/4/cbo-obamacare-push-2m-workers-out-labor-market/

  25. Joanne Brown says:

    Here’s the language from the CBO report (p. 117). Rather than “pushing” people out of work, Obamacare *permits* some people to leave jobs they hold only for the sake of health insurance. This might apportion jobs more appropriately among the lowest-skilled.

    *********************************
    CBO estimates that the ACA will reduce the total number of hours worked, on net, by about 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent during the period from 2017 to 2024, almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor—given the new taxes and other incentives they will face and the financial benefits some will receive. Because the largest declines in labor supply will probably occur among lower-wage workers, the reduction in aggregate compensation (wages, salaries, and fringe benefits) and the impact on the overall economy will be proportionally smaller than the reduction in hours worked. Specifically, CBO estimates that the ACA will cause a reduction of roughly 1 percent in aggregate labor compensation over the 2017–2024 period, compared with what it would have been otherwise. Although such effects are likely to continue after 2024 (the end of the current 10-year budget window), CBO has not estimated their magnitude or duration over a longer period.

    The reduction in CBO’s projections of hours worked represents a decline in the number of full-time-equivalent workers of about 2.0 million in 2017, rising to about 2.5 million in 2024. Although CBO projects that total employment (and compensation) will increase over the coming decade, that increase will be smaller than it would have been in the absence of the ACA. The decline in fulltime- equivalent employment stemming from the ACA will consist of some people not being employed at all and other people working fewer hours; however, CBO has not tried to quantify those two components of the overall effect. The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in businesses’ demand for labor, so it will appear almost entirely as a reduction in labor force participation and in hour worked relative to what would have occurred otherwise rather than as an increase in unemployment (that is, more workers seeking but not finding jobs) or underemployment
    (such as part-time workers who would prefer to work more hours per week).

  26. Andy says:

    Again… still off topic…

    However, Joanne, perhaps you’d prefer the word “encourage” instead of push? Regardless of what word you want to use, this will cause the equivalent of 2 million full time jobs to no longer be fulfilled. Not only that, but these are people who are now eligible to be covered by healthcare through their employer, but will choose not to be because they can receive government assistance (or other benefits) if they work less.

    In other words, we are encouraging people to work less and be less productive. If that doesn’t hit right to the point that the hardcore conservatives say all the time about entitlements and people living off of government assistance then I don’t know what does.

  27. Kyle says:

    Joanne, that is some lovely repetition of the White House talking points, but let’s think through this just a bit. At the beginning of the year, the U6 unemployment rate was hovering right around 13%. 13% of the working population was looking for a job, or looking for more hours from their part time jobs. So when the CBO says a reduction of 2 million full time job equivilents, that’s not just 2 million people following their dreams. That’s 2 million people leaving, and not a single one of that 13% being willing, able, or allowed to fill in for any of those hours. Also, if they were leaving to be budding entrepreneurs, then that would create more jobs, so that isn’t part of this number either. This is just 2 million people who are no longer productive (by their choice or employers).

    But hey, at least pot is legal in a few places now. That should fill the extra hours.

  28. old baldy says:

    Andy and Kyle:

    And how does this all relate to the local control issue, the subject of the article?

  29. Andy says:

    Baldy, I think the better question is this: Chris and Baldy, how does this all relate to the local control issue, the subject of this article?

    I don’t care what subject matter is in the article, if someone tries to say that people deciding to work less in order to gain government benefits (or making less take home pay despite having a higher salary) is somehow a good thing… I’ll respond to that. It has to be among the most ridiculous things I’ve ever read on this site.

  30. Chris Byhre says:

    It did not necessarily relate to the article at all, I just mentioned it from the perspective that our economy has still not recovered 5 years into Hope and Change. As a result, many businesses and individuals have had to make serious sacrifices and cuts. Government should be no different. I used the 2,000,000 less people in the workforce due to Obamacare as a very current example of how in many areas things are getting worse and the belt tightening must contine. People like baldy and Joanne in their knee jerk reaction to defend lefty politicians and policies immediately tried to spin this economic debacle.

  31. old baldy says:

    Chris:

    I’ll go back to the relevant issue: loss of local control at the hands of the current administration. Your mantra of “cut, cut cut”, is most certainly a knee jerk recital of talking points spewed forth by the current administration. What several of us had tried to explain to you, using language my golder retriever can understand, is that there is no simple answer to complex issues faced by local officials. Your continued denial is a sure sign of your inexperience and willful ignorance of the issues.

    And to accuse me of defending “lefty politicians” is as false as it gets. I thought Doyle was a poor performer as governor, and heck I even voted for Nixon (he said he would get my sorry a$& out of SE Asia), Ford, Bush I and Dole. And would have voted for McCain if he wouldn’t have picked Palin as a running mate. So don’t ever accuse me of being a “lefty”, kiddo.

  32. Chris Byhre says:

    Ok, you are neither a lefty nor an effective budget manager, got it. It’s not a mantra and they are not talking points, I just said that in these tough economic times nothing is sacred, we need to make cuts. A big reason local control has been pulled from municipalities is because the locals showed little control when it came to taxing and spending. That seems to be your only solution. I suspect your dog and your unfortunate constituents would understand that as well. If you are unable to do your job anymore in this environment, quit. You are correct, I have no experience in mis-managing a county budget, I will defer to your years of experience on that one. Thanks for your service to this country.

  33. Kyle says:

    Baldy, I’m sure it’s hard work running Anonymous County, WI. Local municipalities in rural areas have a completely different set of issues than those in cities. The waste in Milwaukee isn’t hard to find. MPS had a fiscal year 2013 budget of $1.2 billion. You’ll have to forgive those who frequent a site called Urban Milwaukee for knowing more about the issues as they relate to cities than rural areas.

    That being said, perhaps it’s time to have a talk with your neighbors. There are only a handful of counties in northern WI that didn’t vote for Walker in the recall election. Odds are, your friends and constituents voted for this. Whether they meant to cast a vote for limiting your ability to tax them I can’t say, but perhaps you should explain to them why they need to change their votes in the next election so you have the freedom to tax them more.

  34. old baldy says:

    Chris:

    Your comment “A big reason local control has been pulled from municipalities is because the locals showed little control when it came to taxing and spending.” once again shows your lack of knowledge or experience in local government. Our county ( and none of the adjacent ones) have debt. We aren’t paying 5% on debt like the all-knowing in Madison.

    For someone like you, so unwilling to actually get involved in the process, to make such a general criticism of local government is typical of an ideology blinded by the ideas of another.

    Kyle:

    I acknowledge that Milwaukee county has a problem, but to pass that solution on to other counties that don’t have those same issues is the heart of the matter. The reduction in local control are applied statewide, not just to Milw. County. As to why some northern counties vote against their own well being is a good question. Read “Deer Hunting with Jesus”, or any of a number of other works that examine that phenomenon.

  35. Andy says:

    Baldy, you fault others for not being able to identify with your situation… but it is rather difficult to do so when we don’t know which county you’re referring to. You might just have one of the extremely rare cases where a municipality is so well run that there are absolutely no non-essential items to cut from a budget. However, seeing as how unlikely that is, one can only use their best judgment to make an educated guess at your situation.
    This is especially true for those who come from southeastern Wisconsin. Municipalities regularly state their budget have nothing left to cut… only to find there are plenty of popular programs that could be cut. In these cases, few have the will to do so.
    Even if your county has no debt, can you think of any departments or programs that are not absolutely essential? For example, I know a school district that is in arms because they are out of money… yet they provide classes like a medical assistant course, K4 kindergarten, and other non-essential programs. They may be extremely nice to have… but when the economy suffers and you’re out of money… are they essential?
    So yes, you may have an extremely well run budget. Although without knowing where you are from, we must use our past experience in how we see most municipalities being run in order to make a judgment.

  36. old baldy says:

    Andy:

    Your words, “our past experience”. And what experience is that?

    And management by anecdote has proven to be highly successful. You “know a school district that…”, well my brother-in-laws cousin claims he was abducted by martians. And I believe him. So what do either of those statements have to do with reality? Nothing. (BTW, medical assistant classes are in high demand as they often lead to career choices in the medical field. And many credits will transfer into CNA classes, one of the fastest growing and in-demand fields out there. But you knew that, right??

  37. Andy says:

    I apologize if I did not make it clear enough for you. By “our past experience” I was referring to citizens witnessing the negative effects of poorly run municipalities in southeastern Wisconsin. Although you’d like to think that a person must be an elected official to understand public budgets, I would much rather have someone like Chris who runs his own small business and runs budgets of his own than a public servant when it comes to controlling costs.

    I’d also love to drop the use anecdotes. However, since you still will not tell us which county your experience derives from, we are stuck pulling examples from other communities. Please share, and we can have a real discussion about your budget problems.

    Unfortunately, if your budgeting skills are anywhere near the level of your reading comprehension (considering that I acknowledged having a medical assistant class would be extremely nice to provide) then I am concerned for the taxpayers in your area.

  38. matt stevens says:

    Andy, Chris and Kyle:

    I have been reading this thread with baited breath, hoping there would be some new developments on the local control discussion. But that hasn’t happened yet.

    First let me establish my c.v. : I provide professional and technical services to municipalities all over the state, and have for a long time. Ours is a very competitive industry and it is in my best interest to be aware of the ever changing management climate, political leaning and financial condition of my clients/prospective customers. These are farmers, small business owners, factory workers, retired folks, and professionals of all stripes. All in all, a pretty frugal and conservative group. Having said that I offer a couple observations based on that long experience.

    First, there have certainly been changes made by the current administration to remove control and decision making ability from local units of government. Residency requirements, cell phone towers, frac sand mining to name a few. Those are indisputable facts.

    Second, a lot of the Act 10 provisions are one time savings. I’ll give you an example and some of the implications as I see them unfold out-state. The part of Act 10 most often discussed is the increased contribution by public employees to their health and retirement accounts. I am going to use round numbers in this example. You are all smart enough to extrapolate. Now let’s say you are a municipality and start with a total employee wage/benefit package (pre-Act 10) of 100. The Act 10 change kicks in and you save 10% on benefits, so now your wage/benefit package is 90% of what it was last year. Now you start budgeting for next year with that 90 as your new 100. There is no additional 10% cut in succeeding years. True, you saved 10%, but only on the first year. After that there are no additional savings. So on this aspect of Act 10, Baldy is correct. You can check on the details with the WI Counties Assoc, League of Municipalities, etc.

    One more comment. I don’t deal with school districts in my line of work, but do keep up to date with our local activities. Our school board (Oconto Falls) had already negotiated with the local teachers union for increased contributions before Act 10 was signed. So when they signed a mutually agreed upon contract after Act 10 the local Republican assemblyman condemned them for doing the same thing Act would have done. What a great way to impress your constituents, no?

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