Current Co. Board member drafting bill to shrink size of County government

MILWAUKEE -- Shrinking the size of government in Milwaukee County is an idea that's gaining traction with some influential voices, including Gov. Scott Walker, who says it's time to eliminate waste and redundancy. Now, a current Milwaukee County Board member  is going to the state Assembly, and says he's drafting a bill that would do just that.

Joe Sanfelippo is leaving his position on the County Board next January to become a state Representative. He says the message he hopes to take to Madison is shrinking the size of Milwaukee County government -- particularly the Milwaukee County Board, which he sees as bloated and wasteful, and he's not alone.

12 out of Milwaukee County's 19 municipalities asked for a smaller board in ballot questions last year. Milwaukee County is the state's largest county, but it spends way out of proportion to other counties.

"The Board has fought very hard from having the public heard on this issue. Nothing is going to happen. The citizens of Milwaukee County are not going to get the reform they are requesting without the state Legislature stepping in and helping out," Sanfelippo said.

Sanfelippo is a conservative Republican, but has an unlikely ally in the County Executive, progressive Democrat Chris Abele.

"When you consistently get a poor outcome, people are right to look and say 'okay, what's the decision-making process?'" Abele said.

Gerry Broderick is one of 18 County supervisors. He says he couldn't afford to serve if supervisors' salaries were cut in half and districts were expanded.

"I think we could turn this question upside down and ask the question: do we need an executive?" Broderick said.

Gov. Walker served as the Milwaukee County Executive, and says he supports the smaller government initiative.

"As a homeowner and a property tax payer in Milwaukee County, personally, I'd be interested in that," Gov. Walker said.

Gov. Walker says it should be done through the Legislature and a County-wide referendum -- a question he says could be on the ballot as early as next spring.

"There needs to be a referendum so that the people ultimately affected in that county would have the final say," Gov. Walker said.

Sanfellipo says as a freshman in the Assembly, he knows he's the low man on the totem pole, but he says this issue will be one he will push for in the Republican-controlled Legislature.