This week, a Michigan citizens group filed a petition to recall Gov. Rick Snyder (R), who has been radically restructuring his state after being empowered by a new law that allowed him to unilaterally abrogate contracts made by local governments. Snyder has been using this form of “financial martial law” to do things like dispatch an “emergency financial manager” to Detroit who promptly laid off every single one of the city’s teachers.
Now, Forbes’s Rick Ungar has been reporting that he has a well-placed source in Wisconsin who believes that Gov. Scott Walker (R) is planning a similar form of financial martial law. Walker denied the rumor, telling a local radio show that “nobody on his staff or administration is working on such a plan.”
Yet in a new video of Walker addressing the Greater Milwaukee Committee (GMC) in 2009, it appears that Walker, who was then a county executive, may have been insinuating that he supports such a plan under which the state would radically restructure local government finances. He told the GMC that if county boards do not “act on major reforms,” then it’s worth looking into “the possibility of eliminating county government”:
WALKER: For us, we’ve been looking for almost two years at an alternative for county government. Here’s the tease. We’ve looked extensively. I know many others have looked at this. We believe if they don’t — they being the county board, the state legislature, the governor — give us the tools to act on those major reforms, it’s probably time for us to seriously consider looking at the possibility of eliminating county government, and replacing it with something better. That’s a combination of moving assets to the state, moving to municipal governments, doing it other way, that’s totally different.
Walker’s Communications Director, Chris Schrimpf, e-mailed Ungar and said that Walker was talking about “finding efficiencies in a local government that is one hundred percent incorporated.” Yet it is unclear how this would necessarily underlie the premise that there has to be “an alternative for county government,” as Walker says in his speech. Either way, if Walker does not support declaring Synder-style financial martial law in Wisconsin, then he should not only say his staff is not working on such a plan but that he disavows such an idea.