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Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009

Scott Walker Puts Milwaukee County Residents at Risk

His ultraconservative stance means the county will get stiffed

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Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker is once again being accused of putting his political ambitions above the needs of struggling Milwaukee taxpayers.

Walker has stated that he’d refuse to participate in President-elect Barack Obama’s plan to stimulate the economy by investing in job-rich public works projects. These aren’t any old projects—Obama is targeting environmentally friendly and difficult-to-tackle infrastructure projects that will provide a secure platform for a new stage in this country’s economic growth.

But Walker wants none of Obama’s far-reaching job-producing money. “The real way to stimulate the economy is not to put more money into the hands of the government but into the hands of the people,” Walker argued in a weekend editorial.

Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway blasted Walker’s stance as being utterly political. Walker is considering—after a failed attempt in 2006— a run for governor in 2010. “In your mind, the 2010 election season is upon us, and, because Gov. Jim Doyle is working to secure federal stimulus funds, you oppose seeking stimulus money,” Holloway stated in a stinging letter to Walker.

Even fellow conservative Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, rose above politics to realize the value of the stimulus. “If Washington opens the spigot, we ought to be there with a bucket,” he said.

No one knows what the stimulus legislation will look like since it has not even been drafted, yet Walker believes he knows. Walker argues—without evidence—that the federal government will “only” foot 80% of the bill for the projects. The county executive seems to claim that the remaining 20% to be invested by the county—provided it’s necessary—is too high a price for his political ambitions.

And if Walker was so concerned about putting money into the hands of the people, he would draw up a list of needed projects that could use some federal help. After all, Milwaukee County residents pay federal taxes, and they should get some of it back. And employing people is the best way to put money in their hands.

So while the rest of the country will benefit from improved roads, schools, job creation and social services, Walker’s ultraconservative stance means that Milwaukee County’s taxpayers will be overlooked by the next administration, unless a responsible adult steps in.

“I do not want to see 71 other counties in Wisconsin and 49 other states receive stimulus funding while Milwaukee County is being left behind,” Holloway said in another statement to Walker.

Noting the decaying county properties and the high level of unemployment, Holloway is compiling a list of Milwaukee County projects that are ripe for investment, such as capital projects, mass transit, the parks, and the replacement of the county’s mental health and Huber facilities. He plans to send the list to Gov. Jim Doyle this week so it can be submitted to the federal government.

What’s your take? Write: editor@shepex.com or comment on this story online at www.expressmilwaukee.com.

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