Legislature Passes Milwaukee County Board Reform Bill, Heads to Governor

MacIver News Service | May 15, 2013

[Madison, Wisc…] The State Senate passed a bill on Tuesday that will reduce the power of the Milwaukee County Board, decrease their budget, and schedule a referendum to essentially make County Supervisor positions part-time.

Assembly Bill 85, authored by Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-West Allis), would remove some of the County Board’s power and transfer it to the County Executive. The bill was amended in the State Senate to affect counties with a population of 750,000 or more, instead of 500,000, which would currently only include Milwaukee County.

The bill clarifies that it is the County Executive that has the exclusive authority to oversee all departments. It also limits the County Board’s power to create a new department and requires the County Executive to sign all contracts formed with the county.

If signed by the Governor, it would cut the County Board’s budget by two-thirds and would schedule a referendum for April 2014 to reduce the salary of each County Supervisor to Milwaukee County’s per capita annual income. According to the bill, that would equal approximately $24,000, which would cut Supervisor’s pay in half.

Beginning in 2016, AB 85 would also reduce County Supervisor’s term length from four years to two years.

Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) voted with the majority to approve the bill and offered an amendment that made minor changes to the legislation. Taylor’s amendment allows the County Board to create an independent department that will provide nonpartisan research services for the County Executive and Board.

The amendment also provides that both the County Executive and Board “employ one individual who is responsible for representing the interests of, and reports to, the county executive and one individual who is responsible for representing the interests of, and reports to, the county board.”

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said passing this bill was a big win for taxpayers. “Today the senate worked together with Milwaukee legislators on a bipartisan vote to protect the interests of the taxpayers and continue to cut back on wasteful spending in Wisconsin,” Fitzgerald said in a statement.

The bill passed 19-14 in the Senate, and the Assembly took action to concur in both amendments.

Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) said the bill will provide more local control for Milwaukee County residents. “We are giving the citizens of the county the voice to say exactly how the county board will operate,” Vukmir said. “The referendum gives the people the chance to decide if Milwaukee County needs to bring their costs in line with other counties across the state and cut wasteful spending.”

AB 85 now heads to the Governor where he is expected to sign it.