Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Vos and co. Wrecking crew for Milwaukee

The last few days has featured Assembly Speaker Robin Vos bad-mouthing Milwaukee like the 262-area code ALEC boy that he is. He decided to cheap-shot Mayor Tom Barrett while appearing at the Milwaukee Press Club on Monday.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Monday that he is open to talking to Mayor Tom Barrett about the challenges facing the city, but noted that Milwaukee needs to find new ways to save money and become more efficient.

Vos said making that effort "would be a good faith way to reach out to fiscal conservatives in the suburbs."

Making that effort, Vos said, would show conservatives that the city is able to save money and become a world-class city "without taxing ourselves into oblivion."

Referring specifically to Barrett, the Racine County Republican said the mayor has "been very distracted over the course of the past three years running for governor.

"So I think unfortunately he has chosen to abdicate a lot of the things the city of Milwaukee has needed in his fight for trying to win another office. He has to re-prioritize where he wants to spend his time. Reaching out to us to find ways to work together is a good thing for all of us."
Well Robbie, I can think of a public official that spent more time trying to be governor than worrying about things in Milwaukee, but it was Scott Walker when he was County Exec. Walker failed to fix anything in his 8 years in power, choosing instead to pose to Charles Sykes instead of take workable action, and made the problems he inherited much worse with a much lower chance of repair after he left.

And I really don't want to hear Vos chiding the City of Milwaukee, when he and the GOP Legislature are a main culprit behind Milwaukee's fiscal concerns. James Rowen lays this out extremely well today, showing how Vos contradicts himself with his rhetoric about "working together" with Milwaukee, while promiting GOP-backed measures that have handcuffed the state's largest city.
Milwaukee needs to make folks in River Hills and Brookfield and Chenequa and Greenfield feel better about Milwaukee, and Milwaukee needs to do something about why governance and programming in Milwaukee costs so darn much money.

* Like those police and fire personnel payrolls. Spending there makes up the biggest piece of Milwaukee's operating budget - - 59.7% city officials tell me - - including city payments for employee benefits kept artificially high by Act 10 exemptions enacted by Vos' party for partisan, political reasons.

* And like Milwaukee public school costs - - the biggest piece of local property tax collections (about 40% of the total levy, as I read this chart) - - which are inflated for property tax payers by the transfer of state funding through private school vouchers expanded by Vos' party for partisan, political reasons.

* And Vos, as co-chair of the Joint Committee on Finance, knows something about fiscal discipline (if you overlook the taxpayer meter that's running to pay lawyers in the continuing struggle to exact records on redistricting that GOP-hired lawyers just can't seem to complete, and the huge costs coming in litigation the GOP is inviting over the industry-written, treaty-trampeling, constitution-crushing mining bill).

If there was only something Vos could tell Vos about why the biggest ticket items in Milwaukee public budgets cost so much money.
Vos also oversaw a budget from 2011-2013 that pulled tens of millions of dollars in shared revenues out of Milwaukee, and yanked $47 million from Milwaukee Public Schools. At the same time, Vos led the charge to get rid of a potential Milwaukee County RTA in 2011, calling the RTA concept "an abomination." Now, he has the nerve to complain about Mikwaukee's finances when he and his fellow Republicans have given the city no chance to make up for the cuts imposed on it from Madison.

The Milwaukee Public Policy Forum's Rob Henken used Vos's comments (and Barrett's inevitable pushback) to analyze how Milwaukee's moves in recent years under Barrett have affected its fiscal future. Henken says the fact that the state has refused to increase aid to Milwaukee for the last 12 years is a major source of Beer Town's problems.
Almost four years later, we see that the “Rock and a Hard Place” dynamic facing city leaders has yet to be resolved. Milwaukee remains in a revenue straitjacket caused by strict property tax levy caps and stagnant state aid. In the meantime, while it has made great strides in controlling health care costs (thanks in part to Wisconsin Act 10), the city’s inability to apply Act 10 to its pension system and to police and fire unions limits its ability to stave off future fringe benefits growth. (which is a result of a political decision by Walker and WisGOP to give a kickback to those Milwaukee unions in exchange for their support of Walker over Barrett in 2010 and 2012) Consequently, as we pointed out in our 2013 city budget brief, city leaders are now poised to cut 400 to 600 positions in the next four years, “a feat that likely will be difficult to accomplish without noticeable service-level impacts.”

While efforts to identify efficiencies always are important, resolving Milwaukee’s budget challenges also will require real pain. A similar budget paradigm has caused state legislative leaders to launch a discussion on the state tax code and the manner in which we are raising revenues to support vital state services in areas like law enforcement and transportation. Isn’t it time for a similar discussion on the revenue structure supporting our state’s largest city?
Good question Rob, especially given that Milwaukee is one of the few "destination communities" the state has, with events and attractions that grab large numbers of out-of-towners on a consistent basis. You don't think the City of Milwaukee's fiscal situation wouldn't be better if it could grab a 1% sales tax on everyone that went to a Brewers game or Bucks game or bought a beer at Summerfest? And it would reduce the reliance on property taxes and fees that the City has to impose because it has no other outlet under current law.

Then again, kneecapping Milwaukee's ability to raise funds might be the intelligence of the design for the ALEC Cabin Boy, because if he can drive the City of Milwaukee into fiscal peril, it can become the excuse to try to install a Michigan-style emergency fiscal manager law for Wisconsin. This law was imposed last Friday on Detroit, which is already lifting off major protests. Given that a major ALEC goal is to use fiscal crises as an excuse to sell off government services to campaign contributors and other corporate slime (much like with vouchers undercutting public schools), you can see where WisGOP's Milwaukee-bashing serves a pupose that goes beyond simple suburban racism.

Robin Vos's suburban elitism about the City of Milwaukee is a cynical move, because it's Vos's own votes that have helped to cause the problem that exists today. Which is why it needs to be called out for its destructive nature. You know, for an allegedly pro-business party, I don't understand why GOPs like Robin Vos and Scott Walker and GOP spokesmen like Charlie Sykes spend so much time tearing down the state's largest city and economic center. It doesn't really make people with talent want to set up shop there and take the city to the next level.

And you wonder why we continue to lose our workers to Chicago and the Twin Cities with these dingbats in charge?

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