Walker's just-in-time, stealth budgeting screws state workers yet again | WisCommunity

Walker's just-in-time, stealth budgeting screws state workers yet again

According to Wisconsin President (er, Governor) Scott Walker (R-Hopeful), the state's fiscal condition is simply great; so swell, in fact, that he can dump a couple hundred millions of dollars into a new, privately developed basketball arena for Milwaukee while maintaining tax cuts that mostly benefit the state's wealthy. And, he proclaims, he'll have enough left over so that, in his proposed 2015-'17 budget, he'll return to you another ten bucks in tax savings. Wow. Ten bucks. That will get you half of a sit-down pizza. Don't eat it all in one sitting, though, because it's got to last two years.

Moreover, Kochwalkerstan is so fantastically, fiscally strong that Walker feels unconcerned about increased borrowing -- in the billion-dollar range -- to build more highways and freeways than many of us think we need.

But if that tale of fiscal strength is all true, why trim more benefits for at-risk Wisconsin families, seniors and the disabled? Why whack already stressed public education on up through the UW System by another 400 or so million? Why cut natural land preservation funding? But most telling, why this sudden move, reported in the Wisconsin State Journal today:

Merit raises and retention pay increases for state workers — including some UW System employees — have been suspended by Gov. Scott Walker’s administration.

The announcement about the raise suspensions, “effective immediately,” was made in a Feb. 5 memo to state agencies’ human resources directors.

It’s unclear how many employees will be affected. Under Walker’s 2013-15 budget, most state workers received a 1 percent pay increase each fiscal year.

Three things: First, those merit pay increases were billed two years ago as Walker's way of rewarding the best workers after he made it nearly impossible for anyone except public safety workers to bargain for wage increases; except, of course, when he doesn't reward them. If and when merit pay is restored, it will still be handed out to a handful, not to everyone.

As for those one percent, general wage increases: They're miserly and lag inflation, so the few state employees who do get merit pay are the only ones likely to maintain or increase their buying power, while public employees in the main are still dealing with up to 12 percent compensation cuts Walker inflicted in his first budget: Some full-time public employees, reportedly including some UW professors, are now eligible like WalMart workers for food stamps, which the rest of us underwrite through our taxes. It's the Walker welfare state.

Second, the Walker administration didn't announce the merit freeze to the press, but only sent out that memo to state agencies, which quietly passed on the bad news to their staffs until reporters finally caught wind of it.

Third, Walker's move not only freezes future merit pay increases on an open-ended basis at least through June 30, it also freezes merit pay increases already promised. Walker giveth, and then Walker pulls the rug out from under.

The man is a veritable Lucy Van Pelt, yanking the football away as most of us are about to kick it, just as he's already yanked away his promise that in heavily trimming UW's state funding, he'll allow the system to raise tuition after two years to make up for it. Whoops maybe not -- see link below.

Oh, and by cutting the budget in such stealth ways, Walker evades the embarrassment of calling a (legally mandated) special session of the legislature to make such cuts through open votes. A special session would at this point surely come to the attention of national political reporters looking to affirm all of Walker's good news rhetoric. Of course, our gov has enabled this end-around by grabbing greater executive power to fiddle around with the functionings of state government, thanks to a compliant GOP legislative majority -- a gang that shows incredible disdain for transparency and openness.

Yes, it all amounts to yet further bait and switch from the politi-dude who clearly thinks misleading the rest of the state is the best way to get what he wants, most particularly: a higher public office. But he's not even trying that hard any longer to disguise his real aims.

Thus the Walker M.O. prevails: When times remain bad for most Wisconsin residents, ding the programs that provide a hand up, but spend away on anyone else who suits you and benefits your campaign. Then, when it becomes clear that the state will end this fiscal year around a quarter billion dollars in the red, and faces roughly another $2 billion deficit going into the next two years, Gov. Prudent sidesteps it all, talking bold BS about future revenues looking good, while quietly clawing into worker compensation yet once more.

And don't forget the way Walker ran on the big deficit facing Gov. Jim Doyle's successor, but pooh-ppohs the nearly as awful deficit Walker himself now faces after four years at the helm -- a disconnect even the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Politifact has now recognized (see links below).

Does this guy know any bottom whatsoever? Does he bring any dignity, credibility or sense of public responsibility to the office, at least on those decreasing days when he's actually in his office? Nope.

Money talks. BS governors walk -- in this case toward the White House.


February 15, 2015 - 10:26am