February 19, 2011- Scott Walker, the Governor of Wisconsin who is spearheading the GOP effort to crush collective bargaining, lavished relatively large salary increases on his staff when he was chief executive of the Milwaukee County Board. Walker surreptitiously did this in 2008 – without the approval of the county board itself and at a time that the county was facing a fiscal deficit, and Walker was about to lay off a large number of union workers. In addition, 700 county positions had already been left vacant due to budgetary pressures.
According to a 2008 Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (MJS) article,which exposed Walker's illicit personal staff raises, one aide was to achieve a 26% increase – solely initiated and approved by Walker – even though the staffer, Tom Nardelli, was to receive tax-payer funded pensions that would exceed $35,700 a year. A member of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors called Nardelli's salary increase "obscene," according the MJS.
As with the current "budget crisis" in the State of Wisconsin, Walker was helping to create a budget deficit, while using the situation he is responsible for to try and break the unions.
According to a February 18 New York Times editorial, "Just last month, he [Walker] and the Legislature gave away $117 million in tax breaks, mostly for businesses that expand and for private health savings accounts. That was a choice lawmakers made, and had it not been for those decisions and a few others, according to the state's Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the state would have had a surplus."
It's appropriate then to backtrack to 2008 and Walker's history of gilding the lily for his cronies while trying to break the back of working families becomes illuminated.
According to the MJS article entitled "Walker Issues Hefty Raises to Top Milwaukee County Aides":
Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker wants a 26% pay raise for his chief of staff, former Ald. Tom Nardelli, while bypassing traditional County Board approval in quietly issuing large pay raises over the summer to several other top aides.
Nardelli would get the biggest pay increase of top-tier county officials, a nearly $20,000 raise to $95,000 a year. Seven county administrators also scored increases of up to 12.5%.
Some supervisors are upset about being left out of the decision-making process for many of the raises and say Walker's timing couldn't be worse. Heavily rewarding a few top managers while Walker puts final touches on a 2009 budget that's expected to call for scores of layoffs of union workers sends a message of callous disregard, critics of the raises say.
Among the other big winners among Walker's top aides was Mitchell International Airport Director Barry Bateman. His pay rises $13,595, or 11%, to $136,299 a year. Facilities Management Director Jack Takerian got an $11,771 (12.5%) raise, to nearly $106,000.
One of Walker's highly questionable claims in his Koch Brothers' efforts to squash unions by first going after public worker collective bargaining is that the union benefits are higher than in the private sector.
Yet, in 2008, the MJS reported:
Orville Seymer, field director for Citizens for Responsible Government Network, said the raises for Nardelli and some other Walker aides appeared excessive.
"I just think all these people are overpaid" and unlikely to command such salaries in the private sector, Seymer said.
In his stand-off as the point man for the Koch Brothers, Dick Armey, and the national Republican Party, Walker is doing in 2011 what he did in 2008: enrich his cronies and the well-off at taxpayer expense, create a budget crisis, and then using the budgetary problem that he is responsible for to crush the unions.
History repeats itself, doesn't it – and so does the hypocrisy that threatens the existence of the American working family.