October 25, 2014

Milwaukee County Board pushes back

The chair of the Milwaukee County Board is questioning why state lawmakers are getting involved in local politics, after Republicans announced plans last week to introduce a bill this spring that could result in drastic cuts to pay for county supervisors and the board’s operating budget.

Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic says the proposed changes to the structure of the board and its budget would “totally decimate the board’s function and naturally throw off the balance of power.”

The proposed bill calls for a binding referendum in Milwaukee County that, if approved by voters, would cut supervisor’s yearly salary from almost $51,000 to $15,000. Dimitrijevic says a current draft of the bill would also impose a cap on the board’s budget, which would not go to voters. She says it would amount to a nearly 80 percent cut and would make it impossible for supervisors to effectively serve the nearly one million people they collectively represent.

Sponsors of the bill argue it allows the residents of the Milwaukee County to decide if they want a part-time board and would shift the focus of the body back to policy matters. However, Dimitrijevic says the bill amounts to a state-imposed mandate on the county with language picked by lawmakers. In addition, she says it would prevent the board from putting any other referendum questions on the same ballot.

Dimitrijevic is also questioning the role of the Greater Milwaukee Committee in advocating for the bill. She says the group, which she argues is supposed to be focused on job creation and economic development in Milwaukee County, has five lobbyists working to get the measure passed.

The legislation is expected to be on the fast track at the Capitol this spring, which Dimitrijevic argues will limit debate and scrutiny of the proposal as it moves through the process.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:11)