Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Walker's Inflated Numbers

Scott Walker and his unquestioning operatives are now touting phony numbers of "savings".  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel legitimized the claims by giving it the front page treatment although there was certainly a curious qualifier in that story.
"But the figures also included a significant amount of savings for local governments that could not be verified."
So it should be no surprise that as local governments and media outlets actually started looking at the numbers, they started finding problems.  The first local fact check that I saw was from the Sheboygan Press where they describe Walker's local numbers as "inflated".   This was the key passage from the report:
The $1 billion figure includes an estimated $1.3 million in savings in the City of Sheboygan, where city officials said the money saved under the budget bill was far less, totaling $420,000. City Administrator Jim Amodeo said the governor's estimate assumes Sheboygan employees weren't previously paying any money toward their health insurance when in fact most were paying 8 to 10 percent. "The savings wasn't everything the governor's office said it would be," Amodeo said.
I would assume that this was just bad research by the Walker administration but it is consistent with a long record of made-up estimates and cherry picked numbers.  Remember the initial Capitol clean-up estimates that the Walker administration claimed? What was it again? Eight zillion dollars? Some in the media dutifully reported the phony number without verifying it in any way. Later we learned that the Walker administration pulled the estimate directly out of their own nether regions. Why would people so willfully fall for a Walker estimate on anything ever again? This should be especially true during the heat of a high stakes election.

There were reports last year already showing the insufficiency of the Walker "tools" for local governments.  We should revisit some of those reports now that Walker is touting the new phony numbers. For example the La Crosse Tribune highlighted the negative (or at least lack of) impact of Walker's "tools" in that region.  Here are some of the highlights that remind me of the exact points made in the Sheboygan Press today:
  • The City of Onalaska lost $139,783 (10%) in state payments but they got no savings from the health care cost shift because employees already were paying 20 percent of their premiums.
  • In Holmen, employees were already paying a share of their health care premiums that met the state’s new requirement.  In the end the village was left with a $42,231 hole because of Walker's policies. 
  • West Salem's only union employees were in the police department and were thus exempted from Walker's "tools".  When comparing their very limited savings versus the loss of state aid, they also lost more than they gained. 
  • The Town of Onalaska had only 3 union employees but their contracts lasted until the end of 2012 and other employees worked without pension and health benefits. So Walker's "tools" didn't help them either. In fact they ended up with a net loss when you factor in Walker's drastic cuts to programs like shared revenue.
I think that it is a fairly safe assumption that the Walker propagandists did not drill down to these levels while generating their phony numbers.  I would suspect that these communities along with Sheboygan and many others across the state might also find Walker's made up numbers to be "inflated".

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