Empower Wisconsin | April 30, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Hundreds of thousands of private-sector employees have lost their jobs thanks to the pandemic and the lockdown orders issued by the Evers administration. Many aren’t sure if they’ll have jobs to go back to when things supposedly return to the “new normal.”
So you’ll excuse them if they don’t shed too many tears for government employees after Gov. Tony Evers on Wednesday announced a 5 percent cut in the state’s operations budget in the wake of steep revenue declines. That’s $70 million out of a total $84 billion biennial budget — a glass of water in a jet tub.
It will do little to fill the $2 billion in lost tax revenue in the next fiscal year, according to the governor’s projections to the Trump administration.
The 5 percent cut to executive branch operations may mean some small wage and salary cuts for Wisconsin’s 71,000-plus state employees, but Evers seems loathe to go there.
At a press conference Wednesday, he wouldn’t say whether he would follow the lead of the private sector and state university system in issuing furloughs to state employees. That 5 percent reduction was tough enough, the Democrat said.
“I’m not able to say at this time,” he said. “We’re working hard to get this 5 percent piece done.”
Perhaps he could take some of it from the exorbitant salary bumps he gave to his secretaries, one of his first acts as governor when he took office last year.
As MacIver News Service first reported, several administration leaders received salary increases of 10 percent or better. The highest pay hike went to Kathy Blumenfield, secretary of the Department of Financial Institutions, who got a 16 percent raise. Department of Administration Secretary Joel Brennan got a 14 percent raise, and so did his good friend, Tourism Secretary-designee Sara Meaney.
Brennan, the highest-paid Evers administration director, collected a salary of nearly $153,000 last year.