Milwaukee: City vs. County and Barret vs. Walker

When comparing the budgets of the City of Milwaukee and the County of Milwaukee, we were struck with the similarities in the size and scope of the two governments.

The property tax levy for the City of Milwaukee, under Tom Barrett’s proposed budget, was $247.4 million, for example. Scott Walker’s County levy weighed in at $257.6 million.

The County Budget proposal funded 5,256 full time equivalent employees, while the City payroll had 5,784 FTEs.

Barrett’s budget proposal was $1.482 billion in total spending. Walker’s was $1.5 billion.

Both the Mayor and the County Executive have finally proposed new government employees contribute 5% towards their retirement.  Current employees will continue to contribute nothing towards their generous retirement benefits.

Indeed, these are the two largest governmental bodies in the state, save for the State itself.

But looking a bit deeper, we can see stark differences that reflect the vision, perspective and philosophy of the two leaders.

Barrett’s proposal increased the tax rate by 10 percent (per $1,000 of assessed value) to $8.90. Barrett proposed increasing the tax levy by 4.4 percent.  Walker proposed a tax levy freeze (0%), and an increase in the tax rate by 2.53 percent to $4.05.

Barrett has increased the property tax levy in each of the six budgets he has proposed, Walker has submitted a freeze in each of the eight budgets he has proposed.

Employee health care costs were up 20 percent in Barrett’s proposal, while Walker’s plan saw an 8 percent hike. Barrett proposed a freeze in health care premiums and co-pays for city employees. City employees can pay as little as $40 a month for family coverage health insurance or $150 a month for the more expensive plan.  That equates to city employees paying approximately $1,800 a year for their health care while, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average family premium for health insurance in Wisconsin is almost $3,400 a year.

City employees pay 53% of what your average Wisconsinite pays for health insurance coverage.

Walker proposed all county workers increase their health insurance contribution to a standard 15%. Currently, county employees pay as little as $70 a month for family coverage or $150 a month for the more expensive option. If Walker’s full proposal prevails, county employees will pay $2,800 (for less expensive plan) or $3,100 a year for their health care. This would mean that county workers would pay 91% of what your average Wisconsinite pays for health insurance coverage.

Mayor Barrett proposed a wage freeze as a part of contract negotiations.  Walker proposed a 3% across-the-board cut and elimination of the salary “step increases.” Government’s dirty little secret, step increases are the reason why government workers do not worry about having their wages frozen.  They know that step increases always lead to a higher salary every year.

Barrett has eliminated roughly 430 jobs from city’s payroll since he took office.  Walker has eliminated over 2,000 jobs from the county’s payroll.

Barrett proposed 4 furlough days for his workforce. According the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the four unpaid furlough days will “amount to a 1.5% pay cut.”  Really?  In the private sector, workers are seeing their pay cut while still being required to show up for work. Walker was pushing for 12 furlough days, or the imposition of 21 work weeks of 35 hours.

Mayor Barrett proposed increasing the solid waste fee from approximately $150 to $170 a year for an increase of 13%. The sewer fee was raised to $95 for a 10.5% increase. The storm water fee went from $47 a year to $56 for a 19% increase.

Walker proposed increasing the standard bus fare from $2.00 to $2.25 for increase of 12.5%. The monthly bus pass was slated to go from $60 a month to $64 for a 6.67% increase. Walker also increased the fee to park at and enter the zoo by a dollar each.

Now that the Mayor has made official his desire to run for Governor, there will be no shortage of analysis and comparisons in the coming days.  We here at The MacIver Institute hope that the media will look past the typical Republican vs. Democrat and conservative vs. liberal rhetoric to dig deeper to examine how the two local government leaders deal with issues of taxes, spending, public sector benefits and the delivery and prioritization of government services.

Past performance is not a guarantee of future results, but it does give Wisconsinites something to dig their teeth into for the sake of comparison.