Home / News Features / Chairman Holloway on the Painful Cuts Ahead
Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Chairman Holloway on the Painful Cuts Ahead

'All fat, muscle and bone will be cut'

Google+ Pinterest Print
Milwaukee County Board Chair Lee Holloway minced no words about how Gov. Scott Walker's budget will affect the county, which will lose an estimated $24 million in state aid next year. As a result, the county's 2012 budget will be brutal, with more job losses and cuts in vital services such as transit as likely options. “There will be blood on our hands,” Holloway said last week.

Although the upcoming budget will be proposed by the new county executive, Chris Abele, to a large degree Holloway, as board chair and the ultimate county insider, will have a hand in shaping it. Abele's aides did not respond before deadline, but here's an excerpt of our conversation with the chairman:

Shepherd:
What's your relationship like with the new county executive?

Holloway:
I haven't had a chance to even court him yet. [laughs]

Shepherd:
How much do you think he can do in a year before he's up for re-election?

Holloway:
He might be able to do a lot. It depends on who's measuring and from which side he's being evaluated.

Shepherd:
Transit has been extraordinarily important to you and you've worked to find a dedicated funding source for the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS). But Abele opposes a half-cent sales tax and says that the system can become more efficient to meet its budget. How do you think he can improve the transit system without bringing in more external revenue?

Holloway:
My honest opinion? I don't know. I'm waiting to see. I've got some plans that can bring in more revenue to the transit system, but I'm going to wait to see what his plan is.

Shepherd:
Abele also said the county could use federal money for the bus system.

Holloway:
The federal money is already buying buses. It can't be used for operations, only capital purchases. He might have gotten that wrong. So we'll see.

Shepherd:
And it doesn't look like Walker's going to sign off on a sales tax increase for the county. So what can you do?

Holloway:
We're still advocating to put transit back into the transportation budget, which is being increased substantially. But Walker's plan is to not do that and to pay off the road builders, who had given him all of their money. In fact, he wasn't enthusiastic about the [Hoan] Bridge, but now he's enthusiastic about the bridge because it benefits the road builders.

Shepherd:
So how is Abele going to balance his budget?

Holloway:
I'm only guessing, but I think he's hoping that the mayor is going to be able to help him with costs.

Shepherd:
But how will the county make up for the $24 million it will lose in state aid?

Holloway:
It's going to be very painful. I don't know what he's going to do about it. Either way it's painful. There's no way you can get around the budget situation without it being painful. His friends on the board are going to have to be willing to take that hit.

Shepherd:
Be more specific. Where can you get the money needed to balance this budget?

Holloway:
We're going to cut people's jobs. We're going to have to cut 40 to 50 jobs or more, even a 100. Out of 5,000 employees. We may have to cut 1,000 jobs.

Shepherd:
Would those jobs be privatized or would they be gone for good?

Holloway:
They'd pretty much be gone for good. We won't be able to provide the level of services that we have provided in the past.

Shepherd:
Which jobs will be eliminated?

Holloway:
If it pays for itself, it won't get cut. But if it doesn't pay for itself, and it's on the taxpayers' dime, it's going to get cut. Anywhere we don't have a revenue stream, it's going to be cut. All fat, muscle and bone will be cut. The lines for W-2 are going to be more severe.

Shepherd:
Is the board going to play ball?

Holloway:
They don't have any choice. They can only go up $1 million [because Walker is capping local government's ability to raise the property tax]. We are at the max. The only thing we can do is cut. There will be blood on our hands.

I do like the fact that Chris is here, in a sense, at this time, because you have politicians who treat him differently than they would treat me or how they would treat Jeff Stone.

Shepherd:
What's the difference?

Holloway:
Because they're always looking for a dime. “Chris, would you come to my fund-raiser?” Even though Chris may not give more than $100. They look at him as money, as a silver spoon. But I think that's a good thing because we need that kind of relationship right now. I told him that he needed to learn how to use that politically, and I'm willing to help him.