Once Again, What Were They Thinking?

Published on: 4/23/2013

As taxpayers, we are periodically ‘treated’ to those situations that beg for some kind of corrective action.

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The Milwaukee County Board situation where they weren’t “negotiating” but somehow managed to make an offer for contract improvements with a decertified union is one example.  The Board Chair has not made a lot of friends amongst state legislators in recent days.  Those same legislators hold significant sway over Milwaukee County’s Board.  This could become a textbook lesson on just how not to impress others.

The thrust is two-fold.  The County Board has been a part-time Board but is paid as if it were fulltime.  It is a large Board now with 18 seats, down from 19 when that person made the attempt to rein in spending by daring to suggest that this was a part-time board, etc.  He got caught in the ‘get even’ crossfire when the Board re-designed its district lines in order to set the complainer up for a contested election.  Magically, the complainer lost.

When the current Board Chair realized that this state-driven effort had momentum, she decided to try to slow the process by claiming yet another study about the size of the Board, etc., etc.  The state legislature decided it would have little of that feint and continued on its path to setting up Milwaukee County for a reform referendum next spring in a bill authored in large part by a former County Board member, now Assemblyman SanFelippo

It now has become apparent that there was negotiating going on since a ‘bargaining’ offer was made to the decertified AFSCME union for a 1.5% increase and city-collected union dues.  Of course, a member of the County Board claims this is a misunderstanding and, essentially, was not bargaining.  That has not been at all well-received in Madison and likely has set up the final vote in both the Assembly and the Senate, with a headcount that shows it will most likely pass.

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Then there is that pesky audit report showing the UW system has been sitting on a surplus of $648 million that has been tucked into various accounts all across the UW system.  This was brought to light by a state audit of the UW system.  The surplus has angered lawmakers since they seem to feel they’ve not gotten a straight story from UW officials who have testified.  Such testimony is slated to occur in the very near future.

In its defense, the UW system has stated that it might have been guilty of not providing the entire story but that it certainly had no ulterior motive in having done so.  It is sort of an “it’s not our fault we didn’t tell you about the surplus” approach to trying to smooth over the rough spot.

Indicating the current level of angst, several lawmakers are making noises about UW System President Kevin Reilly being encouraged to resign.  These lawmakers seem to feel it isn’t nice or wise not to give them the entire story or that it is not a great indicator of job performance if the leader of the system didn’t know about this squirreling away of funds while the system lobbied for more tax revenue and further tuition increases with which it could run itself.

At the least, it seems apparent that there will be a budgeting hit felt by the UW System.

In both these instances the question “What were they thinking?” has to be voiced.  Someone in each of these organizations must’ve had the thought that they might not be wandering down a good pathway were this to be found out.