Monday, December 5th, 2016

Milwaukee County Budget not unique in calling for union concessions

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Critics of Scott Walker have been claiming the Milwaukee County Budget that passed was unbalanced – even illegal – because it called for concessions from county employees. This week at the MacIver Institute, I point out that Milwaukee County is hardly the only government entity to budget that way.

Yes, the budget was passed with the assumption that there would be reduced labor costs from union concessions. However, Milwaukee County is hardly the only government entity to create a budget with assumptions about holding down labor costs that have yet to be negotiated.

For example, Eau Claire’s 2010 budget as adopted included this statement, “The importance of the labor settlements in balancing the budget cannot be over emphasized.” The city included figures for two different scenarios for holding down labor costs, then added, “The more typical labor settlements would have increased the City’s projected budget shortfall by 25% or more.”

The City of Waukesha under Democratic Mayor Larry Nelson has passed budgets with assumptions regarding reduced labor costs two years in a row. In the city administrator’s message regarding the current year’s budget, Lori Luther wrote, “…in order to create a balanced budget, an unprecedented salary freeze was assumed for all budgetary purposes. This salary freeze anticipates no increases in 2010, including the traditional step increases normally afforded particular employee groups. It is important to note, however, that a salary freeze must be negotiated with the labor unions that represent our employees.”

Luther added, “I am cautiously optimistic that negotiations will result in a mutually agreeable solution for a one year labor agreement given these extraordinarily difficult economic times. We have not, however, sat down with the unions to discuss contract proposals but will be doing so in the near future.”

In other words, Waukesha’s budget conversation sounds quite like Milwaukee County’s budget, only the unions are not complaining to the media that the city’s financial plans are illegal.

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