On September 24th, I will introduce our annual budget to the Milwaukee County Board, beginning the budget process to be completed in early November.
Developing the budget for Milwaukee County is never an easy task given the financial devastation caused by the county pension scandal of 2001. And even though the county received a $45 million settlement from the consulting firm that helped to design the pension plan, taxpayers are still on the hook for this disastrous scheme for years to come.
But this year and next, our county is facing a more immediate crisis. Due to a sharp decline in tax revenue and state aid, Milwaukee County is facing budget shortfalls for the remainder of 2009 and 2010. This will require us to make some tough decisions in order to fully fund human services without raising taxes.
Last week, I told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that our budget priorities will keep public safety funding intact while fully funding - and in some cases expanding funding - for safety net programs for low income families, children, veterans, and disabled individuals.
Next year continues to pose steep fiscal challenges, with the county facing a shortfall of some $90 million, Walker said. One thing he'll spare from the budget ax is some $2 million in cuts that had been suggested earlier this summer to support services for the disabled, he said.
He also will recommend spending some $4.8 million for a planned expansion of the state Family Care program, which will provide a variety of services for disabled adults under age 60, Walker said. He made the announcement at the Wauwatosa offices of ARC of Greater Milwaukee, a county contractor that provides case management and other services.
For the eighth year in a row, I will introduce a county budget without an increase in the property tax levy. My hope is that Chairman Holloway and the Milwaukee County Board will follow our lead and fund public safety and human services without raising taxes on hardworking families and employers when they can least afford it.
No New Taxes, Please! On Friday, I spoke with WTMJ Radio talk show host Charlie Sykes about Governor Doyle’s renewed effort to raise the sales tax in Milwaukee County. The Legislature rejected a similar plan to fund a regional transit authority during the biennial budget process earlier this year.
I believe Doyle’s plan is wrong for Milwaukee County and wrong for Wisconsin. The $60 million sales tax hike would make Milwaukee County a tax island and the highest taxed county in the state. Governor Doyle and other proponents of the sales tax say it will not hurt our families and employers, but we know better. After all, these are the same people who told us in February that the combined reporting tax on Wisconsin businesses would not have a negative impact on our employers.
If only their predictions had been right. Unfortunately, combined reporting cost Harley Davidson $22.5 million in higher taxes and contributed to a 37% decline in profits. The profit loss forced Harley to layoff another 480 Wisconsin workers last week.
The first priority of the governor should be to foster job growth and create a strong economy. And the fastest, most effective way to create new jobs is to cut taxes and implement regulatory policies that create and retain jobs while encouraging economic investment. History has proven that when taxes are cut, consumers and investors spend more money.
If elected governor, I will fight to reduce the tax burden so that small businesses have more money to invest in job growth and production, which will ultimately increase tax revenues.
It is hard to believe that it has been eight years since the devastating attacks of September 11th, 2001. Last week, I joined community members for a memorial service to honor those who tragically lost their lives on that day, as well as to thank our men and women in uniform for their heroic service.
I remember helping my two sons get ready for school when the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. I worried that their memories would only be filled with the horror and sadness of that day.
While I want to ensure my kids (and all of us) never forget the loss of innocent life on that sad day, we should also remember the incredible unity we shared as Americans. When our president asked all Americans to stand outside their homes on the Friday after 9/11, I remember opening the front door a bit before 7:00pm and being surprised to see our lawn filled with school kids, parents, and neighbors. All of us were looking for something to cling to that evening. We lit candles and sang God Bless America.
That is the image I want my sons and all of us to remember – that no matter how hard we are hit, Americans stand united. That, too, is something we must never forget.