Of deficits, lies and Scott Walker

There isn't enough time to refute all of the idiotic charges against Scott Walker by Chris Liebenthal. At least not in one post.

Chris Liebenthal - and others like him - are partisan hacks. If Walker were half as evil and incompetent as they say there is no way that he would be County Executive - certainly not reelected with 59%. Liebenthal's latest silliness paints Walker as a man so evil and cold-hearted that Dick Cheney looks like Santa Claus.

The thing is that Liebenthal's entire premise is wrong. He claims that Walker is outright lying to constituents and the County Board about the proposed deficit for Milwaukee County and that by doing so it allows Walker to impose draconian cuts to vital services and union contracts. Basically, in Liebenthal's world, Scott Walker is a man so evil he hates children, old people and probably kicks puppies.

Liebenthal points to this Journal Sentinel story that puts the deficit at a mere $650,000 - a tiny fraction of the $15 million deficit Walker claimed exists.

There's only one problem: the deficit would balloon right back up if the programs Liebenthal and other liberals hate were taken away.

Let's break down the Journal Sentinel story:
One reason for the large discrepancies in county deficit projections was that Walker did not include a $5 million payment from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
If the $5 million is paid by next March, it could still be applied to this year's budget, the report says.

That sounds like a bit of a big if. I have always loved the ability of liberals in government to count on money that is in no way guaranteed to "balance" budgets. It strikes me as eerily similar to the overly-optimistic projections about the increased cigarette tax. We all know how well that worked.

Also, Walker's deficit projection figures were more than two months old, Heer noted. Monday's update counted $4.4 million in savings from 3% departmental budget cuts also imposed by Walker.

Those included some unpopular moves supervisors said should be reversed, such as raising fees for county pools, closing Pulaski and Noyes indoor pools and cutting highway maintenance.

About those cuts. Most people on the County Board - as well as Liebenthal - absolutely hate those cuts and increased fees. It would seem that if they did indeed get there way the vast majority of those savings would be lost. If I'm not mistaken, I think that ends up making the deficit worse. A lot worse.

Finally, my favorite part of the story:

Unions representing county workers have opposed Walker's imposition of a 35-hour workweek, which amounts to a 12.5% pay cut. Those furloughs are set to take effect June 28. That action would save the county about $4.5 million, if it lasts through the end of the year.
Now, it's important to note that neither the paper, nor the release by the County Board state that the revised deficit figures included the "5 hour furlough." Still, if you read the paper's story and Liebenthal's blog it may very well include it. I'd be very interested to know whether the furlough was included in the revisions or not. After all, the "draconian" cuts by Walker were included and the Board still wants to overturn many of them.

Either way, let's add up the "what ifs" in the new budget projections: $650,000 - "new" deficit
  • $5 million - if UW-Milwaukee completes there purchase by March 1, 2010
  • $4.4 million - in "draconian" cuts that could be overturned
  • $10 million - deficit if nothing is done at all
If the 35 hour work week was included in the new estimate there would be a $14.5 million deficit. Again, the new estimate reported in the Journal Sentinel includes the cuts imposed by the "immoral" and "lying" Walker and $5 million that the county hopes it has in time.
At a bare minimum, without action the deficit for Milwaukee County is $10 million. It could be as high as $14.5 million - pretty darn close to Walker's claimed $15 million deficit that Liebenthal and the County Board is all up in arms about.

Liebenthal is making quite a big deal out of claiming that "Walker has used this alleged deficit for bashing both the unions and for bashing the citizenry, especially the elderly, the poor, the minorities and the children." Problem is that the deficit isn't fictional. It's real and it would be a lot worse without Walker's actions.

Who's really being dishonest and misleading?