Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dems Are Making Scott Walker Soft?

Brian Fraley thinks that the Milwaukee County Board overrode almost every budget veto made by Scott Walker because Walker wasn't tough enough.

According to Fraley, "someone seems to have told Scott to extend an olive branch to the County Board with the hopes that this soft approach would curry their favor. All it did was empower them. They viewed his passivity as a weakness, and they successfully thwarted much of his agenda this budget cycle."

Who could that "someone" be? Fraley suggests the culprit a few paragraphs earlier: "Perhaps this failure is a result of some of the personnel Scott has himself empowered. While they may be good, decent individuals, he has life-long partisan democrats, bureaucrats, and liberals in many key leadership positions on his staff and throughout his Administration."

Of course, Fraley offers no examples in the post of how Walker "extend[ed] an olive branch to the County Board" during the latest budget cycle. And Fraley conveniently ignores the fact that last year, when Walker took a hard-line approach by vetoing the entire budget -- declaring, with his hands metaphorically thrown it the air, "It's their budget now" -- he essentially came away with the same thing as he did this time around: nothing.

The fact is that the board has enough votes to override Walker on just about every point of the budget, and over the years Walker's incessantly combative relationship with the board hasn't exactly endeared him to a large percentage of supervisors. While he doesn't need to be drinking buddies with anyone on the board, a respectful working relationship between the executive and the board is clearly in the best interest of the county; and hitting the talk radio circuit at every chance to bash the supervisors isn't the most effective way to forge respect.

But even more fundamental than that is Walker's unwillingness and inability to engage in meaningful budget dialogue with the board as a result of his zero-tax increase campaign pledge, which he'll almost surely make again when he officially declares his re-election bid for next year.

Walker isn't extending any olive branches when it comes to the budget. To be sure, he can't sit down at a table with supervisors to negotiate because starting and ending at zero provides him with nothing of substance to invest in a compromise.

But Fraley, ever the political consultant, is attempting the trick of making a weakness (Walker can't compromise) into a strength (Walker shouldn't compromise) by claiming it's not that Walker's approach was too rigid, it's that it was too soft.

And that line about liberal moles in the Walker administration who are causing the softness? Just pure rhetorical gold.

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Blogger Joe Klein said...

The blog-o-sphere should keep asking these two questions:

When does the real Scott Walker intend to run for reelection?

When will the real Scott Walker agree to an open public debate?

November 15, 2007  
Blogger Russ said...

Seth & Joe

The "real" Scott Walker is not the loser. The "real" losers are the thousands of low income Milwaukee County households that live paycheck to paycheck. Most Milwaukee County taxing entities are ignoring the fact that most of those low income folks are struggling now before this latest round of substantial property tax increases. TAXATION WITHOUT REGARD TO ABILITY TO PAY IS THE REAL PROBLEM. The County Exec. doing battle with the County Board?? That's just fodder for the media and the bloggers.

November 16, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

I left this same comment on the last thread where you raised this issue, Russ, but, since you never responded, I'll leave it again here.

I understand your "ability to pay" argument rests upon the median household income decline; but the real question there is whether declining median household income is reason enough to justify not increasing taxes to help pay for public services like parks, youth programs, disability services, the courts, UW Extension programming, etc., all of which Walker proposed to cut to save $6.16 on the average property tax bill.

To be sure, many factors contribute to median household income figures, including -- most obviously -- the number of single earner households. Tellingly, while median household income is declining in Milwaukee County, per capita personal income is actually has increased every year over the last decade on record. In other words, just because median household income is declining does not necessarily mean that the public's "ability to pay" is doing the same.

That said, just because personal income per capita is increasing doesn't meant that taxes should necessarily increase. It's all just part of the equation, along with the service that's going to be provided, that goes into determining public finance. After all, it's not like these dollars are falling into a black hole. For the most part, they're often going to sustain services for the less affluent who have lowest ability to pay.

Take the transit cuts Walker initially proposed. Those would've severely impacted the lower income residents in the county who rely on public transit to get to work, school, the grocery store, etc. Transit funding ended up coming from the state -- thanks, in large part, to Lena Taylor -- but, if it didn't, Walker would've stood by his proposal to cut it (and it's not like "state money" is free; it's coming from tax dollars, just not those in Walker's explicit domain). How exactly would that be protecting the taxpayers who have the most tenuous "ability to pay"? What makes transit affordable for lower income people is that the cost is spread out amongst the entire population through taxes.

In other words, cutting taxes doesn't necessarily equate to helping the "ability to pay" for those who live check to check; it certainly wouldn't have for plenty of people in Milwaukee County if Walker would've had his way with the transit system, or the other services he proposed cutting to save that $6.16 on the average property tax bill.

November 16, 2007  
Blogger Russ said...


If property tax increases were going to help those that can not help themselves, I could accept it.

The fact is the REAL money from property tax increases are going for MATC massive salary and benefit increases.
Public school teachers Rolls Royce health care of which they pay only a fraction or nothing at all.
The automatic 3.8% yearly increases THEY DEMAND even during recession years.
Public sector fringe benefits that are 50% higher than in the private sector. And the Milwaukee County pension system is nothing short extortion.


November 16, 2007  
Blogger capper said...

Umm, Russ, Milwaukee County doesn't deal wiht the schools, or MATC. County employees were given a 1% raise this year.

But I don't hear any griping about building ballparks for millionaires, building eight lane freeways when they can't even keep the six and four lane ones open, or an unjust war which is costing $4 billions dollars per week. And you gripe about $6.

November 16, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Thanks, capper. But convincing Russ that public sector compensation is no different than private sector compensation in WI is a losing battle. I've shown him the actual numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and cited reports from the Department of Labor like this one on numerous occasions, but he just won't listen. He'd rather distort and cherry-pick facts than alter his conclusions.

The fact is, what was on the table in these last budget discussions for the county was parks, youth programs, disability services, UW Extension programming, court services, and, until the state came through with additional funding, the transit system. It's right here in the Journal Sentinel coverage of Walker's vetoes, but good luck getting Russ to acknowledge any of that.

November 17, 2007  
Blogger Russ said...

Seth & capper
The recent WisTax study clearly substantiates that while wages are about the same for public and private workers benefits are 50% higher for public sector workers.
If you haven't read the report please do so.
Seth, by stating that public sector compensation is no differnet than private compensation when hard data proves otherwise you place your credibility into question.

November 17, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

I wrote about the WisTax study in this post. You can read all of my thoughts there (although, considering you commented on it at the time, I figured you already did read it); but, suffice to say, the study was short-sighted in that it factored into the average all of the private sector jobs that don't offer any benefits, so of course that figure is going to come out significantly lower than the public sector, which offers benefits to employs regardless of whether they're executives or food service cashiers.

On the issue of total compensation, which is the truly important point, the WisTax study found: "From 2001 through 2005, total compensation per worker rose at similar rates in Wisconsin’s public (4.0% per year) and private (3.8% per year) sectors."

How is that different than what I said in my last comment? The WisTax study actually supports my point; it doesn't bring into question my credibility.

And that doesn't even get into the fact that, as the Department of Labor study cited in my last comment finds, the public sector tends to have a much higher percentage of white collar jobs than the private sector as a whole. As that DoL study put it, "the differences in the cost of compensation in the public and private sectors stem from a number of factors, particularly the large variation in the work activities and occupational structures of the two sectors. For example, certain activities that are required in government, such as public education and safety, call for a large proportion of white-collar professionals and highly skilled service occupations. In contrast, certain industries such as manufacturing, wholesale trade, and retail trade, are unique to the private sector, and require occupations with comparatively lower compensation costs, such as sales."

Taking that WisTax study as evidence that the public sector is compensated more than the private sector -- without considering what the study actually says about total compensation -- is exactly what I meant above about distorting and cherry-picking facts, Russ. And using it to question my credibility is just more of the same.

November 17, 2007  
Blogger Russ said...

Potted plants know that Milwaukee County workers performing the same work as people in the private sector have far better benefits. I suspect that gap is higher than
50%. Maybe you haven't heard, Milwaukee County is writing $500 to $600,000 backdrop checks over and above the monthly retirement checks. Tom Ament is sucking $85,000 a year out the taxpayers, in retirement checks.
Public school teachers vs private school teachers, it's not even close.
Another fact that WisTax exposed is the Michigan public vs private gap is only 18.4%.
That's not because MI public workers have poor benefits, it's because the automotive sector HAD (past tense) benefits almost as lavish as the public sector. Of course we now know those benefits were not sustainable. In fact lavish retirement benefits drove the Detroit car companies to the brink of bankruptcy. Ironically Governor Granholm hasn't got the message. She has done little, if anything, to roll back unsustanable public sector benefits. She is living in la la land.

November 18, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

The bottom line is total compensation, Russ. Many in the public sector have opted to get increases in benefits rather than wages, which is a point the WisTax study acknowledges: "The faster growth in public benefits led to slower increases in public wages and salaries (2.4% per year) compared to those in the private sector (3.0%). In this vein, WISTAX researchers noted that rising health insurance costs have had a negative effect on Wisconsin teacher salaries."

That's from the very study you brought up to defend your position, Russ. But feel free to continue cherry-picking and distorting.

November 18, 2007  

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