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Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010

Issue of the Week: Scott Walker Cuts Workers’ Pay

Plus Hero and Jerk of the Week

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Think Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker can be trusted with the state budget? Think again. His current Milwaukee County budget, now nine months old, is in free-fall. In fact, the situation is so bad that he ordered four more unpaid furlough days for members of the county’s largest union—on top of the 22 unpaid furlough days they’ve already been forced to take. That’s one unpaid day off for each two-week pay period, or a 10% pay cut.

So much for responsible budgeting.

The problem goes back to last fall when Walker presented his proposed 2010 budget, which included $32 million in wage and benefit cuts that had never been presented to union representatives. While the county board watered down those cuts, the budget Walker signed contained roughly a $10 million hole in it.

That’s technically illegal, since the county is mandated to craft a balanced budget each year.

But instead of resolving the issue right away, Walker allowed it to drag on while he promoted himself around the state. Now, it’s September, and Walker still has to fill that hole (and come up with an extra $700,000 to pay consultants who are inspecting county facilities following the fatal accident at the O’Donnell parking structure).

So what does Walker do? He didn’t go back to the bargaining table to work out a compromise. Instead, he unilaterally ordered more furlough days for workers and then skipped town to campaign for governor. But not all workers get the extra furlough days. Walker exempted the higher-paid workers, such as attorneys and engineers, who tend to vote in the Republican primary, and stuck it to the lower-paid workers who provide the front-line services that keep the county operating every day and who will probably vote in the Democratic primary.

We’re sure Walker tried to delay the furloughs until after the Sept. 14 primary so that he could seem like a responsible budget-cutter. But the truth is that Walker’s 2010 county budget is illegal, unethical and irresponsible.

Heroes of the Week

‘2nd Sundays’ Volunteers

Corporate sponsorship often amounts to just lending out a logo for special events, but volunteers from Lena’s Food Market and the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) will be donating their time to collect food donations at Milwaukee’s newest concert series, “2nd Sundays at the Lake” (at the Old Coast Guard Pavilion next to McKinley Marina). Organized by Serve 60, which matches volunteers with local opportunities, the concerts will feature gospel music from 2-5:30 p.m. beginning Sept. 12.

Volunteers from Lena’s and WHEDA will be collecting nonperishable items for the food banks of Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin. Readers who wish to help are urged to bring food items to the benefit, or visit www.serve60.com or www.feedingamericawi.org.

Jerk of the Week

WTMJ-AM’s Charlie Sykes

Right-wing talker Charlie Sykes is used to reprinting on his blog, verbatim, e-mails from conservatives like Scott Walker and David Clarke when they need a sympathetic media outlet. So Sykes probably thought nothing about reprinting, verbatim, an e-mail from an anonymous listener about an alleged Tom Barrett fund-raiser hosted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Cue the right-wing noise machine. Immediately, the state Republican Party sent out a snarky press release about the super-secret fund-raiser that Barrett allegedly didn’t want anyone to know about. The problem, though, is that Sykes and the Republicans got punk’d. The Republican Party had to retract their comments on their website, and so did Sykes. The fund-raiser only existed in their paranoid fantasies. Perhaps Sykes should stick with talking points provided by Walker’s campaign chair, Michael Grebe, who just happens to employ Sykes’ wife.

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