Scott Walker has a problem, and it seems to be growing bigger and bigger.
It has to do with the fact that he has very little credibility and keeps doing things that make that little bit smaller.
And I don't meant that with county workers or with liberals, since he's never had a lot of credibility with either of those groups. I'm talking about with moderates and even with conservatives.
Every year that Walker has submitted a proposed budget to the County Board, they've had to fix it the best they could, but even then, the budgets would traditionally have a midyear crisis that would require "corrective actions," usually meaning layoffs.
The only exception to this was the 2007 budget, in which Walker vetoed the entire amended budget with a great deal of showboating. The Board overrode his veto, and there was a $7 million surplus that year.
But a reasonable person could have explained all of these budget struggles as politics as usual.
This year, Walker decided to take it up a notch or three.
It started early in the year when he claimed there was a $15 million deficit, just three months into the year. His solution was to lay off over 300 workers. He made this threat when there was in actuality, only a 1% deficit in the budget. He said that the only other solution was for all the workers to take reduced work hours for an indefinite amount of time, and to give up other contractual and legal rights.
The union, of course, said no and filed for an arbitration ruling that Walker was exceeding his authority. The County Board also started to look at legal action since he was overstepping his authority with them as well, since he cannot make a cut of more than 10% without it going past them first.
It was only when threatened with all these lawsuits did Walker blink and back down, saying he would wait until the ruling, and promising to do lay offs in August.
Finally, the ruling came in and the arbitrator found that Walker tried to impose the reduced work hours illegally and issued an order that he cease and desist immediately. It also came out at the time that there was, in fact, no deficit, but a $5 million surplus.
It should be noted that this whole business of acting as if he was standing tough against the unions came just before he went on his annual taxpayer-funded campaign bike ride around the state.
Things calmed down for a little while, while Walker was too busy traveling the state in his perpetual gubernatorial campaign to do any further damage to the county.
Then just last week it started up again.
News broke that the County suddenly had a $3 million dollar deficit. This "surprise" deficit came about due to the incompetence of his own administration that didn't bother to run the new reimbursement formula for most of the year.
Walker's immediate solution was, you guessed it, lay off 180 workers for an indefinite amount of time. The odd thing about this was that this move would have only saved about $800,000, not the $3 million. Then on Friday morning, he met with Chairman Lee Holloway and Supervisor Elizabeth Coggs, who is the Chairwoman of the Board's Finance and Audit Committee. He told them that he would be willing to rescind the layoffs, which had already been issued. Within two hours, the Committee had that much and more found in surpluses from various departments and a heads up plan by Sue Black, Director of the Parks Department.
Other events from that day showed that Walker did not have the authority to issue those lay off notices, since he obviously failed to exhaust all other monies, as required by the terms of the union contract.
Two things should be noted regarding this incident. One, Walker still hasn't taken any responsibility for the error nor has he held John Chianelli accountable for this either. Secondly, this came up just days before he is to have a major fund-raising event in Pewaukee.
I think that most reasonable people would agree that this is no way to run a business or a governmental body. In the private sector, Chianelli's name would already be off his office door and he would be nothing but a faint memory to the company. On top of that, the workers would also have gone on strike and the Board of Directors would have probably sent Walker packing with his buddy, Chianelli.
I also don't think that this pattern will help his campaign any either. Who is going to have faith in a person whose county is constantly going through one budget crisis after another? It will also make people increasingly suspicious and turned off when it comes to light that each of these "crises" came just before a major campaign event. To make matters only worse, Walker keeps shooting himself in the foot when he keeps trying to exceed his authority, gets exposed as a sham, and then backs off from his tough guy attitude.
It is like a person running to be fire chief, only to be caught setting the fires he is fighting to show his worth as chief.
It is shameful that he is playing such a cynical game of politics with the lives of not only county workers and their families, but with the lives of the very people he is supposed to be representing.
And as an afterthought, does anyone care to bet he has a fundraiser around the end of the year, since I've been hearing rumors that he will issue up to seven or eight hundred lay off notices before the end of the year, because his budget was already in shambles when he offered it to the Board.