Scott Walker’s Record on Local Government Issues
A consistent theme throughout Gov. Scott Walker’s administration has been power grabs, particularly from local government. Walker has signed several bills preempting legislation at the local level, including a medical leave ordinance in Milwaukee and local living wage ordinances throughout the state.
His approach to budgeting and taxes have also restricted local governments, capping local government’s ability to raise revenue through property taxes, slashing the amount of state revenue shared with local governments to pay for things like police, fire, and snow plowing.
Some of these attacks have been politically motivated attacks directed solely the Milwaukee County board, which Walker tangled with during his tenure as Milwaukee County exec. A law signed by Walker forced the board from four year terms to two year terms, cut the board’s budget by two-thirds, and resulted in county board supervisors’ positions changing from full-time to part-time.
Walker Signed Bill Restricting Early Voting Hours and Limiting Local Clerks’ Control of Early Voting Hours
Signed bill that limited clerk’s office hours and days available for early voting, eliminating weekend voting and severely restricting voting hours available outside the normal work day. The Assembly version of the bill (2013 AB 54) failed to pass, but a substantially similar bill (SB 324) was adopted. The Governor exercised a partial veto, striking language limiting voting hours to 45 hours per week but leaving intact restrictions on hours of day (8 a.m. to 7 p.m.) and elimination of weekend hours.
A report that Gov. Walker’s gubernatorial campaign manager directed his Milwaukee County staff to “drag out” fulfilling requests under the state open records law for information related to a tragic incident involving the death of a young boy outside a county owned facility may not be an isolated incident, according to One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross. Numerous open record requests made by One Wisconsin Now experienced the same fate, with delays of up to six months and the charging exorbitant fees for simple information.
One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross released the following statements related to the announcement that Kelly Rindfleisch will plead guilty to one count of felony misconduct in public office for her actions as Deputy Chief of Staff to Scott Walker while he was Milwaukee County Executive:
Walker attempt to privatize food stamps and take over Medical Assistance from counties blocked; counties form consortiums to meet demand while dealing with 16.8% budget cut
Here's the challenge: The state cut funding to operate economic support services by 16.8 percent, while at the same time requiring counties to contribute the same amount to services that they did in 2009. In his budget repair bill, Gov. Scott Walker proposed taking all of those duties away from counties. Medical Assistance, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program -- formerly referred to as food stamps -- BadgerCare and subsidized childcare, consolidating them at the state level, and providing service through a call-center model. A private company, not state workers, would oversee programs. Gov. Scott Walker's administration estimated the proposal would save $48 million each year and eliminate 270 state positions. Previous efforts to run programs such as BadgerCare out of centralized offices didn't work. The Legislative Audit Bureau gave the state performance in operating BadgerCare a dismal review. So counties offered the state an alternative: Counties would continue to provide the services but they would form income maintenance consortiums. The lead county in each consortium would work with the state, and each county within the consortium would continue to provide face-to-face services for their residents. In addition, each county would provide a call center to answer questions and process change orders for all of the consortium's clients.
GOP bill takes away local control over landlords; allows landlords to discriminate against poor people
Madison city officials and housing advocates are reeling from a punch delivered by new GOP legislation that threatens to erase several decades worth of renter protections enacted here. Senate Bill 107, introduced on May 26 with the backing of landlords and property owners, realty agents and the construction industry, is on a fast track and is expected to reach the Senate floor as early as this week after being approved last week by the Housing and Insurance Committee.* The bill would prohibit local governments from enacting ordinances that limit a residential landlord's ability to obtain and use personal information from tenants and prospective tenants, including income and source of income, occupation, court records, rental history, and credit information, according to an analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau...Supporters don't deny charges that the bill takes special aim at Madison. It was meant to. (*Note: this bill was passed and signed into law by Walker.)
Walker signed into law a bill that prevented local government's from passing paid sick leave or family medical leave laws that are more inclusive and powerful than the statewide law. The governor signed the bill into law on May 5, 2011. (2011 SB 23, introduced 2/23/11; Senate Roll Call; Assembly Roll Call)
Walker Privatized Courthouse Security, Resulting in a Convicted Sex Offender Working There Without County Knowledge
“(Chad Wegener) works for Wackenhut Security Services, a big international firm, which took over security at the Courthouse last month. However, back in 2004, Wegener resigned as chief of police in Manawa, Wisconsin amid scandal -- accused of making repeated unwanted sexual advances towards on-duty male officers after pressuring them to drink beer and watch pornography at his home. Wegener plead no contest to five misdemeanors, including disorderly conduct, and spent three months in jail.”
“Walker, the county executive who is running for governor, renewed his call Monday to parcel out county functions to the state, municipalities and to governmental districts yet to be created. Walker has proposed having the state take over administration of public assistance programs, social services for seniors and people with disabilities, and the courts. Cities and villages could take over maintenance of county roads. He also advocated for new, specialized districts to run transit, the parks, and the zoo and local cultural institutions...”
“Doyle said Friday he is working with Democratic legislative leaders on the next round of cuts for all state programs but was not ready to announce what he will recommend. A 5% cut in state aid to local governments would give them about $48 million less for their 2010 budgets. In February, before the latest drop in tax collections, Doyle had proposed a 1% cut in state aid. Doyle's comments were met with apprehension from the leaders of Wisconsin's two largest local governments. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker were already in the process of chopping spending this year and preparing drastically scaled-back budgets for next year. They said further cuts to shared revenue would only make that job harder.”
“The referendum also faced organized opposition from a local conservative political action group, Wisconsin Club for Growth, which ran radio ads critical of the sales tax increase over the past week. Walker recorded the ads for the group. In them, he raised the still-potent specter of the controversial 2001 county pension deal by saying, ‘The same County Board that voted to increase their own pensions now want your permission to raise taxes by $130 million.’ That line drew protests from supervisors, who said only seven of the 19 current board members were on the board in 2001 and only five voted for the pension deal.”
Walker’s Pledge to Freeze Property Tax and Refusal to Raise Any Taxes ‘Exacerbates the County’s Woes’
“But Walker exacerbates the county's woes by sticking to his pledge to freeze the county property tax. The sentiment is commendable, but his intransigence is anything but. ...Walker's pledge fits his belief in small government. But it also conveniently provides Walker, who ran for governor in 2006 and clearly has his sights on higher office, with an immensely popular platform plank.”
“Assembly Republicans on Thursday proposed a two-year statewide property tax freeze as a way to shield taxpayers...State aid to cities, counties, villages and towns would be set at $931 million in 2004 -- the level recommended by Doyle, and about a 7 percent cut from state aid in 2003. Doyle, speaking to about 200 municipal leaders Thursday in Madison, slammed the proposal as a way to shift the blame for the state's finances to local officials...Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, a former Republican lawmaker, supported the freeze. ‘This plan guarantees that Milwaukee County taxpayers will not see a tax increase in 2004,’ Walker said in a statement. But the Wisconsin Counties Association said the freeze would only compound problems for counties in providing services the state requires.”
The lawmakers' proposal would eliminate the $ 819.5 million a year in operating subsidies that state government gives to cities, villages and towns.But it would continue state operating aid of $189 million to counties. The proposal would cut the 5 percent statewide sales tax by an amount equal to $ 819.5 million, which officials said would lower the sales tax to 3.8 percent. City councils and village and town boards would gain authority to create local sales taxes under the proposal. Only counties can currently levy local sales taxes of 0.5 percent, and 51 of the 72 counties collect this surtax.The plan "allows us to cut the state sales tax, avoid property tax increases and give power back to the cities," Walker said. Sen. Brian Burke, D-Milwaukee, denounced the Republicans' plan, saying it would raise the sales tax in Milwaukee County from more than 2 percent. The sales tax rate would have to soar to replace the $340 million the county and all local governments get in state aid, said Burke, co-chairman of the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee.Walker conceded that his plan would lead to different sales tax rates among communities. Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist denounced the plan."I think it's a goofy kind of idea," Norquist said.
The bill proposed making permanent a previously adopted cap on public school funding.
Walker claimed the new Republican Legislators pioneered the idea. “We felt it was important as new members to stress that we were looking for something dynamic and different.”