Scott Walker, the Milwaukee County executive who was just elected Governor of Wisconsin, has been fiercely criticized for his decision to not support an expensive new passenger rail service between Milwaukee and Madison. Now, groups with a stake in rail line and its politics, such as unions and environmentalists, are staging public rallies in an effort to convince the Walker to change his mind. On Monday, a labor-backed rally took place at a train manufacturing plant in Milwaukee and at least six similar rallies are planned for tomorrow.
Train supporters claim that they are protesting the loss of jobs while Walker says that the state cannot afford it. Although the federal government has provided $810 million in funds for the construction of the rail line, the state could be left responsible for millions of dollars annually in operational costs. Currently, the state is dealing with an unemployment rate of 7.7 percent and faces a budget deficit of nearly $3 billion over the next two years.
But those who support the rail should know that Walker is serious about holding the line on spending. As Milwaukee’s County Executive, he earned a reputation for combating overspending in the county’s budgets. In fact, in each of his nine budget proposals, he kept the property tax levy to the previous year’s level. Walker did this despite howls of protest from critics who said his budgets “cut to the bone” and deprived Milwaukee County residents of important services such as transit and parks.
For the sake of Wisconsin’s taxpayers, let’s hope that Governor Walker stays true to his reputation as a good steward of taxpayer money.