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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Taylor vs. Walker: On The Budget

by capper

Ever since the pension scandal that swept Scott Walker into office, the budget for Milwaukee County has been a contentious issue. To be fair, Walker walked into a big pile of crap, thanks to his predecessor, F. Thomas Ament. There were difficult decisions to be made and bold actions needed to be taken.

Instead of making those decisions or taking those actions, Walker instead chose to allow the County to become decimated. When confronted on this, Walker would through up his hands and blame the pension. Even when warned of the pending exodus of County workers in 2004, and the large payouts that would be caused by this, Walker ignored these warnings and refused to plan for this inevitability.

During his entire tenure, Walker has refused to budge on his ill conceived promise of no tax hikes. Not only did he refuse to budge, but his only solution was to cut services. He slashed bus routes until there was a populist-type of uprising. He allowed the parks to deteriorate into brownfields. He denied services to the mentally ill until the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel did a whole series of articles exposing his neglect. He also cut services to those seeking help with their addictions to drugs and/or alcohol. He has crippled the courthouse and has diminished the presence of the Sheriff's Office until there was an outcry about the crimes going on in the parks. He has cut positions at the House of Corrections until the number of inmates escaping to commit further crimes, including murder, made its way to the papers. He has sold of highly-valued County property at sweetheart prices.

Now, Walker apparently feels that he has weakened the County enough. His newest proposals include selling off more of the dwindling county assets. What he doesn't sell off, Walker wants to now privatize, even though he was against it before. I am sure this will sell well with his shrinking base, but the latest polls show that it is not nearly as popular with the public in general.

In other words, he doesn't care about preserving what is left of the County, but would rather allow his pals feed off the carrion, and then boasting that he saved the average taxpayer a whole six dollars in taxes.

In contrast to Walker's scorched earth principle of budgeting, Senator Taylor has a whole different approach. While Senator Taylor is aware of the crush that the average taxpayer is feeling, she is also keenly aware of the importance to maintain the level of service and the quality of life that people want. She also realizes the larger cost that will fall on the County if proper standards aren't maintained. This is evidenced by her saying, "How does one take an infrastructure, not provide maintenance for it for years, and expect it to be OK?"

In the appearance I was able to attend, Senator Taylor outlined four things she would do differently.

First, she would assess the assets that the County has, and what would be the best way to utilize them. Just not what would win her political favor, or gain her support from the special interests, like you know who has been doing.

Second, she wants to get full funding from the State. She said that at budget time, she will be on the phone so much and visiting State legislators so much, that they "will think I am still a Senator." This contrasts starkly with Walker, who in last year's budget delays, planned on the Democratic version of the budget, while at the same time bad-mouthing it. And there was no evidence that he was trying to lobby legislators from either party to take the burden off of Milwaukee County taxpayers.

It should be also noted that during the last state budget, Senator Taylor has managed to get millions of dollars to come to Milwaukee County that wouldn't have otherwise. This money went to help the Milwaukee Public Schools, the Milwaukee County Transit System, Child Support Enforcement, and the courts.

Thirdly, Senator Taylor would regain access to federal monies that Walker has left on the table. She would apply for grants, improve parts of the county, and take other actions that would increase the flow of federal money to help keep costs to the average taxpayer down. Yes, yes, I know, federal money is still coming from the taxpayer, but keep in mind that this is money that has already been collected. It would be going to us, rather than other silly things, like protecting the Corn Palace from terrorists. (If the Senator is reading this, one thing that pops to mind is getting the mental health complex accredited again. This would increase Title XIX proceeds again. It used to be accredited, but Walker let that lapse, because it would have cost money to maintain proper standards to remain accredited.)

The Senator's fourth point is collaboration. She would work with the various cities in the County, the various school districts and neighboring counties to see where services could be combined to help defray costs.

The example she used for this point was cutting grass. The county has their own lawn mowers and people to operate them. Each city in the county, have their own people using their own machines to cut their properties. Each school district has the same thing going on as well. She said that she would try to join forces with the cities and the school districts to combine the pools of equipment and the staff members to run it, in an effort to help defray the costs, while maintaining a well-maintained community.

In summary, both candidates are focused on not raising taxes any more than necessary (yes, even Walker tacitly agreed for the need to raise taxes), but Senator Taylor's plan goes farther by also wanting to maintain the infrastructure, the same or better levels of services, and the high quality of life that people want.

To learn more about Senator Taylor, you can find her campaign's home page here. If you wish to make a contribution, you can do that on this site. If you want to help in other ways, this is the page that will help you join her team.

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