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Cut the Pay for State Legislators?
Attacks on the Milwaukee County Board Raises Statewide Questions

In 2011, members of the Florida state legislature considered cutting the pay of school board members to $100 per meeting. Florida school board salaries are set by the state according to their county-wide school district population. The average Florida school board member is paid around $30,000 per year, higher than the salaries for members of the state legislature.

The measure to cut school board salaries ultimately failed, but Florida legislators were able to raise their own salaries closer to the state school board member’s average salary.

Florida is one of only ten states where the legislature is considered full time with a salary set at $29,697 per year. Some of the states with full time legislatures have a fairly large population except one. Yes, you guessed it – Wisconsin. And Wisconsin legislators take home pay is one of the largest in the nation at $49,943.

This disparity was not lost on some of Wisconsin’s state legislators when some of their colleagues suggest that the salaries of Milwaukee County supervisors be cut to $15,000 per year. State Rep. Leon Young (D-Milwaukee) suggested that the salaries of state legislators be cut. State Senator Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) said that he would reintroduce legislation to cut the number of legislators in both the Assembly and the Senate.

It will be interesting to watch how enthusiastic fellow Republican legislators will be in supporting State Rep. Joe SanFelippo’s (R-West Allis) proposal to cut county board pay. SanFelippo is a former Milwaukee County supervisor who figured he, and the rest of the board, are overpaid for job they do.

Sen. Carpenter has always been a fiscal hawk, so cutting the number of state legislators is not necessarily payback to attacks on Milwaukee County. But a lot of his fellow Democrats, especially from Milwaukee proper, are pretty sick of the continual attacks on Milwaukee by small town and rural Republicans who just don’t understand the big city. For some reason, so many legislators from outside Milwaukee think the only problem with government is inside Milwaukee. Why not reform government statewide?

Milwaukee County’s board with 18 members is downright undersized when compared with other county board statewide. Neighboring Waukesha County has 25 supervisors. Why Marathon needs 38 county supervisors is beyond me. How do they get anything done?

Wisconsin has more counties, towns, hamlets, school boards, and any other units of governments than most other states. Never mind how much they get paid. Just the sheer number of governmental entities causes inefficiencies and wastes money.

The attacks on Milwaukee don’t just come from Republicans in the state legislature. Two years ago, the state teachers’ union, WEAC, proposed cutting up Milwaukee Public Schools into four districts. The small town leadership of WEAC couldn’t get their heads and hands around the concept of large city government. They don’t understand the city, and they aren’t even going to try. In Florida, every school district is county-wide. School districts of 150,000 children are quite common. Milwaukee with its 80,000 plus children looks undersized by that standard. Why does Wisconsin have elementary school districts with their own school boards and superintendents that feed into unified high school districts also with their own school boards and superintendents?

Why does every hamlet need its own police force? Why does Milwaukee County need a sheriff’s department when all of Milwaukee is incorporated? We could get rid of the sheriff or we could go in the other direction and create a metropolitan police force. Why does each community need its own fire department, sanitation and public works departments?

The problem of Wisconsin governance just isn’t in Milwaukee.





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