State Senate to vote this week on County Board reform bill

MADISON (WITI) -- The state Senate is set to vote on Tuesday, May 14th on a bill that would reform the Milwaukee County Board. The bill would force elections every two years, limit the County Board's role in negotiations and hold a binding referendum on cutting supervisors' pay from $50K a year to $24K starting in 2016.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says Republicans have the votes needed to pass the bill, spearheaded by Assemblyman Joe Sanfelippo.

"I do predict that the bill will pass, and that many of those provisions will be something that will bring the Board back to a level that -- for many of us -- will be acceptable," Fitzgerald (R - Juneau) said.

"They have the votes, but once again, this is big government Republicans sticking their nose into local government," Sen. Bob Wirch (D - Pleasant Prairie) said.

Sen. Wirch says the Legislature has no business meddling in County affairs.

"The best government is the government closest to the people, but they're mad with power.  They think they can do what they want with local government," Sen. Wirch said.

"I think one of the things that's been lost in the conversation is that the 72 counties are the agents of the state.  They execute many of the programs that the Legislature passes and the governor signs into law, so there's a linkage there that we feel responsible to make sure that level of government is functioning because it's an extension of us," Sen. Fitzgerald said.

"Why would anyone want to run for office on a local level when the decisions are made here in Madison?  That's absurd logic," Sen. Wirch said.

Gov. Walker, who famously sparred with the County Board when he was County Executive supports the referendum idea.

"You're leaving it up to the voters in Milwaukee County to have that final say. I say give them a vote," Gov. Walker said.

Meanwhile, some County supervisors remain in support of County Board supervisors reforming the Board.

In fact, County Board supervisors voted in favor of the Board reforming itself and against state imposed changes in previous meetings.

The local plan would reduce salaries by 20% and require supervisors to take training every other year. It would also reduce the County Board's budget.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele vetoed those measures, calling them impractical and illegal. However, the Board overturned his veto.

The Board still has to make changes to its plan. However, if a state bill is passed, it overrides any County proposal.

Related stories: