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Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2009

Scott Walker’s Slippery Rhetoric

County executive’s record includes increased spending and taxes

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There are few things that people dislike more than fast-talking politicians. The perception is that they will say and do anything to get the next vote and win the next election.

Unfortunately this perception has long become the reality of Scott Walker’s time as Milwaukee county executive. Walker has been on all sides of many issues, including the two that he has made central to his campaign for governor: taxes and spending. While Walker wants the voters to perceive of him as a no-tax-increase budget hawk, the reality is that Walker has allowed the county’s spending to swell by more than a third, and its taxes to increase by almost 20%.

Scott Walker’s proposed budget for 2003—his first as county executive—suggested $1,100,274,125 in county spending. His proposed budget for 2010 suggested $1,481,577,120 in government spending. That amounts to a 35% increase in spending during his time as county executive.

Even looking at his budgets from one year to the next reflects a significant spending increase. In his proposed 2009 budget Walker suggested spending $1,426,815,877. In his 2010 budget, Walker suggests spending a total of $1,481,577,120. That is a 3.9% increase in Milwaukee County spending from one year to the next. Such an increase in spending could be completely necessary, but advocating for it in your budget while at the same time attacking it on the campaign trail is the worst kind of double talk. 

A recent analysis by One Wisconsin Now found that Walker’s double standards on government spending go way back to his days as a state representative. The group found that he “voted for five straight state budgets, which increased state budget spending from $26.6 billion to nearly $49 billion.” That Walker-approved spending was an increase of more than $22 billion, or 84%. Once again, even the slipperiest politician may find it difficult to explain Walker’s anti-spending rhetoric with that kind of big-spending record. 

Walker Approved Tax Increases

Any Scott Walker campaign speech will also include a full dose of bumper-sticker slogans against higher taxes. But Walker runs into a problem between his talking points and reality on that issue as well. In his proposed budget for 2003, Walker suggested a $218,708,524 tax levy. In his 2010 budget he suggests $257,637,284. That is nearly a $40 million (18%) increase over his time as county executive. These are his own numbers from his own proposed budgets and he should have to explain them to his supporters.

Even when you look at his tax levy proposals from one year to the next, you see that he is playing a shell game. He spends most of the previous year fighting the Milwaukee County Board on their slight tax levy increase, which he and everyone else realizes is necessary in order to balance the budget. To prove that point, in the following budget cycle Walker goes back not to his tax levy, but to the realistic one from the County Board as the starting point for his next budget. It is a behind-the-scenes admission that the slight increase that he fought the previous year was actually necessary in the first place. 

Given the kind of economic hardship that many are facing in our community, the last thing we need is another politician who is perfectly willing to say anything to get our vote. This is a serious time that requires serious leaders who are willing to level with the public and make the hard decisions. There is no time for double talk and slippery talking points because they only complicate the problems that we already face.