September 21, 2014

Lawmakers target Milwaukee County board

Voters in Milwaukee County would get a chance to voice their opinion on whether County Board supervisor’s should have their pay drastically reduced, under a bill being proposed in the state Legislature.

The bill from state Representative Joe Sanfelippo (R-West Allis), a former member of the Milwaukee County Board, and state Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) would put an advisory referendum on the ballot. If approved, it would cut supervisor’s pay from almost $51,000 a year to just $15,000, cut their health and pension benefits.

The bill also includes provisions that would shrink the board’s operations budget from more than $6 million to just over $1 million.

Sanfelippo says the push comes following decades of reports and studies that have urged the county to downsize its board and move members to part-time status. He says it would shift the focus of the board back to policy and long term planning, and also help the county address a budget deficit of over $100 million.

Sanfelippo says he wants to send the proposal to voters in a binding referendum so “that the citizens of this county will finally have an opportunity to say this is how we want to be governed.”

Critics of the proposal call it a power grab and argue it will result in less minority representation on the county board.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:08)

WUWM radio contributed to this report.

UPDATE: This story was updated to clarify the budget provision of the legislation. As currently worded, the referendum would only address the pay of Milwaukee County supervisors. Any reduction in the board’s budget would be automatic after the bill is passed.