2 GOP Lawmakers Push for Big Cut in County Supervisor Pay
Bill proposed by state Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. Joe Sanfelippo calls for binding referendum making supervisors part time and axing salary by 70 percent.
Calling it a plan to help Milwaukee County deal with its fiscal woes, two Republican state legislators on Friday unveiled a plan that would enable voters to decide whether to drastically cut salaries of county supervisors.
The legislation proposed by Sen. Alberta Darling of River Hills and Rep. Joe Sanfelippo of West Allis would authorize a binding referendum in April that calls for reducing salaries by 70 percent — from about $50,000 to $15,000 — and making the positions part time.
"This bill is about local control," Darling said in a press release. "It let's voters decide what's more important: parks or politicians."
Darling and Sanfelippo are seeking co-sponsors for the bill, which also would eliminate health care and pension benefits for supervisors, and would significantly cut the board's budget. The two unveiled their plan at a Friday press conference at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Milwaukee.
"Milwaukee County already has trouble paying its bills. There doesn't seem to be enough money for vital services like transportation and public safety, let alone the Zoo, our museums and parks," Sanfelippo said. "By restoring a part-time board to Milwaukee County, as we have in every other county in the state, we will empower citizen-legislators to bring new ideas and fresh energy to Milwaukee County."
Milwaukee County Supervisor Theo Lipscomb represents the 1st District, including Bayside, Brown Deer, Fox Point, Glendale, River Hills and a portion of the Northeast side of Milwaukee.
"During the recalls, citizens and legislators alike argued that there already exist a mechanism for voters to express their discontent with local leaders - elections," Lipscomb said. "This is tantamount to a recall less than a year following an election where our stance on this very issue was a key differentiation between me and my opponent."
"The size and nature of Milwaukee County demonstrates why we are different from others in Wisconsin," Lipscomb continued. "Yet, over the last decade the board has reduced its size from 25 to 18, which is below the state average. The 1st district itself, with about 52,000 people, is now more populous than more than 30 other counties in the state."
Rep. Dan Knodl (R-Germantown), who previously served on the Washington County Board, said Milwaukee County supervisors just doesn't have as much work to do, so the proposed $15,000 salary is still more than equitable for the workload.
"The salary is much too high in accordance with the workload. I think this is perhaps not reduced enough," said Knodl, who attended Friday's press conference. "Again, you can only compare to around the state. Washington County was $6,500; this is twice that for certainly a comparable workload if not less. So, the salary is still a very fair salary."
But not everyone is in favor of reforming the board's hours and salary.
Protestors marched out of the basement of the chamber chanting: "We are the people, we are united. We don't want the state running Milwaukee."
One member of the group was Manny Vellon of Milwaukee. He said there are too many issues that need to be worked on in Milwaukee County, and dropping County Board positions to part time will leave too many problems on the back burner.
"Supervisors part time? What’s next, the aldermen part time? The mayor part time? What’s next, Sandy Pasch part time?" Vellon asked. "Ya know, you talk the talk, now walk the walk. Live on $15,000 and see how that feels."
Franklin was one of the 12 municipalities that voted on an advisory referendum in April about reducing the size of the Milwaukee County Board. Franklin Mayor Tom Taylor, who attended the press conference, said the board didn't even react to the voters' voices saying it's time to downsize.
"After the referendum question by 12 communities, you’d think there would have been some reaction from the County Board to adjust this or that. There wasn’t," Taylor said.
"You cannot have 19 county executives, you can only have one," Taylor said. "And there’s got to be an understanding. Maybe it’s well overdue for 50 or 60 years, an understanding between the county executive’s office and the County Board as to how they’re going to operate county government."
Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele responded to today's press conference in support of the reform.
"I applaud this legislation and look forward to the residents of Milwaukee County having a say in the future of their government," he said.
On Monday, 19 county municipalities will meet at the Fox Point Police Department to discuss municipalities absorbing costs associated with recently held elections, as well as the new proposal for the Milwaukee County Board reform. U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson is also slated to attend that public meeting.