Late last week reports started surfacing about Scott Walker preparing to advance Michigan-style "financial marshall law" legislation in Wisconsin. Basically such legislation would allow Walker to apply a financial "stress test" to local municipalities, counties and school districts. If they fail such a test, he could then appoint god-knows-who to take control of that local government and render the local elected officials (and the voters that chose them) useless.
This morning while speaking to his admirers at Journal Communications Inc. Walker denied these rumors. He went on to say that this report was "absolutely false" because no one on his staff or in his administration was working on such a plan. It seems to me that the natural follow up question to his answer would be something like this: "But would you support such legislation if it were introduced in the legislature?" We can't expect these particular Walker admirers to ask such a question but hopefully others in the media will dig deeper than Walker's word.
Such an extreme policy like "financial marshall law" is sadly not out of the realm of possibility. Walker has proven that he is willing to support just about any radical notion as long as it advances his political ambitions and feeds the bottom lines of the money bags that pull his strings. Not to mention the fact that this kind of legislation passed in Michigan and is being currently enacted. There is also a new "organization" that seems to support this kind of extreme legislation at least as it applies to Milwaukee County. So is it really outside the realm to think that it could happen here and that Scott Walker would suddenly become its biggest cheerleader?
The original report claims that the law firm Foley & Lardner is writing the "financial marshall law" plan. This certainly wouldn't be a surprise to anyone that remembers other actions by this firm just a handful of years ago. When Milwaukee's big business elites couldn't convince the Milwaukee County Board to give up one of its biggest assets, General Mitchell International Airport, they brought in this same firm to write legislation to bypass the board. In fact the legislation that was being written in secret would have also allowed them to take this valuable asset from Milwaukee County without even a single vote from the board or from the public. With this secret legislation, special interests worked with their Milwaukee-area errand runner Rep. Jeff Stone (R-Greendale).
I don't personally have enough information to verify that this "financial martial law" legislation is actually in process but that isn't my basic point here. I am simply saying that it wouldn't be a surprise, even with Walker's carefully crafted denial today. It wouldn't be the first time that secret legislation was being written by special interests, it wouldn't be the first time that they tried to sidestep local officials and the people that elected them. And it certainly wouldn't be the first time that special interests made a play for valuable public assets that they have already coveted for a very long time.