Scott Walker’s dismal fiscal record

Cory Liebmann

WiG reported on June 17 that Republican candidate for governor Scott Walker would oppose the state’s domestic partner registry as well as benefits for same-sex partners of state workers. In fact, last year Walker vetoed an effort to extend benefits to Milwaukee County employees and their domestic partners. This follows Walker’s pattern of pandering to some of the most extreme elements of the right wing in the run up to an election. Unfortunately, LGBT employees and their families have paid the price for Walker’s grandstanding.

The LGBT community is certainly diverse, including in the areas of political and ideological beliefs. There are some in the community who favor what may be called a fiscally conservative approach to public policy, while at the same time remaining socially progressive. The Log Cabin Republicans are an example of this. But even if groups like LCR choose to ignore Walker’s anti-LGBT record, what redeeming value would they find in his fiscal record?

Walker’s rhetoric on fiscal matters does not match the reality of his performance. If Log Cabin Republicans truly value smaller government, it is difficult to fathom how they could support him. During his time as Milwaukee County executive, county spending has increased 35 percent based on Walker’s own proposed budgets. Earlier this year, the progressive group One Wisconsin Now did an analysis comparing the rate of Walker spending to that of Gov. Jim Doyle and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. It showed that Walker’s spending increases surpassed both of them.

On their website, the Log Cabin Republicans list “low taxes” as one of their key beliefs. But nearly every one of Walker’s proposed budgets has called for a higher tax levy. His proposed tax levy for 2003 was just over $218 million, while his proposed levy for the 2010 budget was $258 million. That is an increase of nearly $40 million during Walker’s time as county executive. That figure does not even include the massive fee increases that Walker has promoted during his time in office. You simply can’t claim to be a fiscal conservative and then support someone with that kind of a record.

One would think that a fiscal conservative would also see the error in adopting short-term policies that come at a much higher long-term cost. That approach has been the hallmark of Walker’s time as county executive. For example, rather than making pension obligation payments, Walker chose instead to issue $400 million in bonds to cover those costs. Many warned that this scheme was risky and voters even rejected a similar plan in a 2005 referendum. Ignoring almost everyone else, Walker favored the short-term fix regardless of the long-term risk and the potential costs.

By comparison, Barrett made tough budgetary decisions and had the city pay its pension obligations rather than take on a risky set of debts.

A recent report by the Public Policy Forum confirmed that Milwaukee County has applied short-term approaches that have only prolonged the dire fiscal problems that it faces. That same report estimates that Milwaukee County under Walker’s leadership faces a structural deficit of between $20 million and $45 million for 2011. That amount is estimated to grow to an unprecedented $100 million by 2014.  Exactly what aspect of this kind of budgeting could be considered “fiscally conservative” by anyone’s definition?

Whether you look at Walker’s abysmal record on LGBT issues or take the Log Cabin Republican look at his fiscal record, he has been an abject failure. Regardless of party affiliation or ideological loyalties, this kind of failure just shouldn’t be rewarded with support from anyone in the LGBT community.