Whither MKE Cnty: Referendum? They’ve Already Lied to You!

As State Representative (and former County Supervisor) Joe Sanfelippo fine tunes his referendum to dismantle MKE County government as we know it, he’s now decided to only include the changes to County Supervisor pay and benefits in a binding referendum. This is his suggestion to reduce supervisor salaries to $15,000 per year compared to their current rate of $50.079. AND prevent them from participating in any county benefits.

Part two of the referendum was to include a big cut in the boards budget…capping it at a fixed percentage of the county property tax levy. Essentially it would cut $5 million from the current budget of $6.6 million. But after a little bit more malice aforethought, Rep. Sanfelippo has decided that asking the voters to weigh in on the budget would be, well, just too confusing:

The legislation, still in draft form, would subject the supervisor pay cut to a binding referendum vote. But the provision to cut board spending to 0.4% of the county’s overall property tax levy – that translates to a $5 million cut based on the current levy – would not be an issue for voters in an April referendum.

State Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-West Allis), one of the bill’s authors, said the County Board budget cut was left off the referendum question to keep the ballot question simple. He said imposing that cut by the state wouldn’t undercut the argument that the cuts preserved local control.

“The biggest and most important thing to people is are (supervisors) full time or part time,” he said.

If the question is whether supervisors are full time or part time, why isn’t that the precise referendum question? Wouldn’t that be simpler? And what if I think part time is cool but $15,000 isn’t reasonable? This is like one of those polls during an election cycle when no matter what answer you select, it doesn’t actually fit your views.

But state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), one of the bill’s authors, said the referendum provision puts the matter in the hands of local voters. “What could be more fair?” she asked, after a news conference Friday with advocates of the legislation.

What would be more fair is an opportunity for the community to have some input on the wording of the referendum. What would be fair is for MKE county voters to have a real say instead of state legislators for 90 districts and 30 senate seats without ties to Milwaukee.

So, although initially telling us we could vote on the board’s budget, now we are being told that we can’t…that the smarter brain trust in Madison will handle it for us!

Technically the State of Wisconsin has a lot of control over the makeup and operation of county governments per the state constitution. But I am not sure everything that Rep. Sanfelippo and Sen. Darling are suggesting are quite up to snuff. I will look at those issues in a another blog.

A little side note: if you are so inclined to comment on any of my blogs about MKE County government, I’d appreciate if you’d indicate if you are a county resident or not

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