Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Scott Walker’s Scary Use of Phantom Money

Once again Scott Walker’s leadership has brought us a huge parks deficit. It seems that 101 excuses have been given for why this has happened. Try to ignore this diversionary tactic and let’s keep it simple.

Take a look at a side by side comparison of the Parks budgets from 2004 to the present. In the 2005 budget the Walker Administration cut the tax levy supported portion of the Parks budget by over $2.8 million. He then added a whopping $3.4 million to the total revenues. What great thing happened in 2005 that justified such a jump in money coming in? Nothing, it’s just a shell game. It seems that he was hoping to hide his cut to the Parks Department by over inflating the revenue numbers. So when the inflated revenues didn’t come in, his drastic cut is revealed in the form of a $2.3 million deficit.

Think about it in everyday language. Pick an item from your family budget, auto maintenance for example. Let’s say that you spend $1,200 a year on maintaining your car. You decide that you don’t want to spend that much in real money so you cut that budget item to only $200 a year. Now say that you don’t want anyone to easily notice that you drastically made this cut to auto maintenance. So you just dream up some scenario where somehow your car starts bringing in a huge amount of money. Who knows how this happens and who cares, it makes your budget look nice on paper! This is not real money, it is simply a wild prediction. Now you use this wild prediction to replace the real money that you just cut from your auto maintenance for the year. BUT when those chickens come home to roost and your car doesn’t magically bring in that huge amount of money, you either don’t take care of your car or you run a personal deficit. Tada! Welcome to the wonderful world of a Walker budget!

It appears that the Parks Department did do better in 2005 in terms of bringing in revenue. But it was only enough to lower the probable deficit from $2.8 million to the $2.3 million one that we now have.

Scott Walker’s line has been that he would not allow an increase in property taxes. Since he has his eyes on higher office, he can’t allow that to happen for any reason. So even if he must cut real money from the budget and replace it with phantom money, so be it. When the fake money disappears he can just blame someone else and allow the shell game to continue. Let’s hope that voters will look beyond the spin and buck passing. Let’s hope that they look at Scott Walker and ask one question. If his political aspirations lead him to do this to Milwaukee County’s budget, what will happen to the state budget under his control? Scary thought.

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