Friday, October 15, 2010

A budget marked by uncertainty

The Public Policy Forum's annual analysis of the Milwaukee County recommended budget - released this morning - focuses on the significant wage and benefit concessions that allow the county executive to bridge the county's annual structural gap while averting major service cuts and revenue increases.

The analysis emphasizes the necessity of stringent controls on wages and deep cuts in benefits given the county's ominous fiscal challenges, and gives particular credit to the budget's creative attempt to rein in the lucrative free health care benefit provided to retirees hired prior to 1994. While noting the appropriateness of these measures as a strategic direction for the county, however, it suggests there is considerable risk in plugging the savings into the budget in light of the need for collective bargaining and questions surrounding the timing of implementation.

A key theme of this year's budget brief, in fact, is the uncertainty surrounding several areas of major savings in the recommended budget and the potential consequences should they not come to fruition. We update three models used in our July budget preview report to give readers a sense of the types of options available to the county if it is faced with a sizable mid-year gap, while also pointing out some key policy considerations regarding the potential for another 26 furlough days for 1,700 union workers and up to 165 union layoffs.

The 2011 Milwaukee County Budget Brief can be accessed here. The Forum released a similar analysis of the 2011 City of Milwaukee budget earlier this week, which can be accessed here.

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