One last battle for Walker at the county
Governor-elect Scott Walker has long been fighting a two-front war. One to become governor, and one to hold the line on spending in Milwaukee County. With the final sixteen vetoes, including the veto of the tax levy, Walker’s fight with the County Board finally reaches the end. As I wrote in this week’s column for the MacIver Institute, the Milwaukee County vetoes gives us one last look at the kind of governor Walker will be before he takes office.
The sixteen vetoes of the county board’s spending increases reduced the county’s proposed tax levy by $7,405,948. After amending the county executive’s proposed budget, the county board’s proposed tax levy was $269,554,701. After Walker’s vetoes, the proposed tax levy is $262,148,753, or approximately $1 million less than the 2010 tax levy.
The vetoes included increased wage and benefit compensation for Milwaukee County employees over what Walker had proposed. Walker’s budget was criticized for including yet-to-be-negotiated wage and benefit concessions. However, the county board did not change that approach to the budget. They only lessened the impact of the concessions on county employees, recognition finally that something must be done to control employee wage and benefit costs.
Walker’s vetoes restored the amount of concessions he requested from county employees, and thereby reduced the proposed tax levy by over $5.9 million. For example, the county board voted to reduce the required pension contribution by employees from 5% to 4%. Walker’s twelfth veto restored the higher pension contribution obligation for a net reduction of the tax levy of $4,481,784.
While it’s good to see the county board starting to get the principle, they aren’t quite adept at the concept of finding savings by cutting employee benefit costs yet. For example, the county board voted to amend the proposed budget to contribute to the employee health flex spending accounts. Walker vetoed the contribution, cutting $489,779 from the tax levy.
Walker also vetoed amendments to the county budget that would have increased county borrowing by an additional $13.2 million. While the borrowing would not have had a direct impact on the tax levy for 2011, future budgets would have borne the impact of service for the additional debt. Walker said the annual service on the additional bonding would be over $1.1 million.