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1/13/2012 8:19:00 AM
GAB: Recall of Walker would cost taxpayers more than $9 million
News Analysis - Costs could go higher if Dems have primary, or there are more recalls
Gov. Scott Walker
Gov. Scott Walker
Fast facts
• The cost to the state, counties and municipalities to stage a recall of Gov. Scott Walker will likely top $9 million, according to estimates by the state's Government Accountability Board.

• A statewide recall election would tag counties for more than $2.3 million; municipalities, for more than $5.8 million; and the GAB itself for about $841,000,

• State Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said he would introduce a constitutional amendment to require a real reason to recall an elected official.

• Speaking at the American Enterprise Institute, Gov. Scott Walker continued to press his message about collective bargaining - the issue sparking the recall - calling it an expensive entitlement, not a right.

Richard Moore
Investigative Reporter

The cost to the state, counties and municipalities - to Wisconsin taxpayers, in other words - to stage a recall of Gov. Scott Walker will likely top $9 million, according to new estimates by the state's Government Accountability Board.

GAB director Kevin Kennedy included the estimates in a Jan. 6 letter to state Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester), who requested the figures.

To calculate the costs, Kennedy said the agency conducted an online survey of counties and municipalities, as well as mailings to 120 municipalities lacking high-speed Internet. Local officials were asked to figure costs for a variety of election administration tasks, using actual numbers from the November 2010 general election and the April 5, 2011, spring election as guides.

Kennedy said all 72 counties and 92.5 percent of municipalities answered the survey.

The bottom line?

Kennedy said a statewide recall election would tag counties for more than $2.3 million; municipalities, for more than $5.8 million; and the GAB itself for about $841,000, totaling just more than $9 million overall.

Those costs could rise if the Democrats hold a gubernatorial primary or if more recalls are scheduled. Democrats have been trying to recall four state senators.

Vos said the cost of what he called an unnecessary recall process needed to be publicized.

"The citizens of Wisconsin should have known the estimated cost on local governments before a single petition was circulated," Vos said. "Is this how they want their valuable taxpayer dollars spent? At a time when local government budgets are very tight, this will have a dramatic impact on the dollars that pay for our streets to be plowed and our neighborhoods to be protected by police and fire departments."

Vos observed that few attempts to recall governors had been successful, and he said he expected this effort to fail as well.

"The real results of the statewide recall election will be a financial drain on our local governments and an emotional drain on our electorate," he said. "The recalls are not healthy for our state."

Vos said he would introduce a constitutional amendment to require a real reason to recall an elected official.

For his part, state Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate said it would be money well spent.

"The $9 million cost of a statewide recall election is great, but the cost of doing nothing is far greater," Tate said. "This undertaking is the biggest investment in the future of our state and families we can make. It would take more than seven recall elections to equal the cost of Walker's tax increase on seniors and working families. It would take more than 11 recalls to equal the tuition hike Walker foisted on University of Wisconsin-System students and their families. And Walker's $2.3 billion in tax giveaways to out-of-state corporations and the super-rich would pay for more than 255 recall elections. Wisconsin simply cannot afford Scott Walker any longer."


In his letter to Vos, Kennedy said some municipalities incurred costs that others did not, and costs could be affected by turnout rates and other factors. As such, he wrote, the figures should be interpreted as a guide rather than as a definitive statement of costs.

For counties, the printing of ballots was by far the most expensive item listed, coming to just less than $800,000, while staff time would top $222,000. Programming electronic voting equipment was another expensive task, estimated at $545,553.

For municipalities, wages were by far the costliest burden. Municipalities estimated that staff time would total more than $1 million; wages for poll workers would exceed $2.7 million. Training poll workers and other election inspectors would cost another $385,000.

For the GAB itself, the agency revised its original estimate to the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee of $652,699 upward to $841,349. The cost includes the review of recall petitions.

The new estimate includes adjustments for the cost of facility preparation for the review, as well as the impact of last week's Waukesha circuit court ruling directing the agency to take actions to strike fraudulent signatures.

The GAB had previously said signatures would be presumed valid on their face, and it would be left to the Walker campaign to challenge frivolous or multiple signatures, even if the GAB saw a signature such as 'Mickey Mouse.' The GAB had said it would flag such names but not strike them.

The court demurred, saying the agency must take reasonable steps to identify and strike duplicate, fictitious or unverifiable signatures from recall petitions and to seek additional resources if needed to do so.

In his letter to Vos, Kennedy said it would take $100,000 to secure the software and technical support necessary to implement the court's decision. Finally, security services would add an additional $80,000 to the recall bottom line.

Recall organizers must gather about 540,000 valid signatures by Jan. 17 to force an election, but most observers as well as the Walker camp believe they will do so. Walker said last week he expects to face a recall election in June.

Speaking at the American Enterprise Institute, however, the governor seem unfazed and unrelenting in his message about restricting collective bargaining, the measure that sparked the recall effort.

"Collective bargaining in the public sector is not a right; it's an expensive entitlement," Walker said. "Who historically in this country and state by state pays for the excessive expanse of government?" Walker said. "It is fundamentally the middle class taxpayers in our states and in our country. What we did was about standing up and protecting those middle-class taxpayers."

The board will have 31 days to review recall petitions, but the GAB is expected to ask the courts for additional time, as it did last year.

In addition to Walker, organizers are trying to gather enough signatures to schedule recall elections against Republican Sens. Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau, Van Wanggaard of Racine, Pam Galloway of Wausau, and Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls.

For his part, Fitzgerald observed that the $9 million price tag is on top of the $2.1 million taxpayers shelled out for last year's recalls, in which Republicans held on to the state Senate.

"It's one thing for the Madison liberals and the unions to complain about change," Fitzgerald said. "The old, broken system worked well for them. But it's another thing for them to stick the taxpayers with a $9 million bill just because they're unhappy,"

Fitzgerald said $9 million would pay for 234 jobs at the state's average personal income level of $38,424; a $40 check to every unemployed worker in Wisconsin; and would pay 70 percent of the Democrats' C.O.R.E. jobs agenda last session of $12.4 million.

Richard Moore can be reached at richardmoore.gov@gmail.com

Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, January 16, 2012
Article comment by: Chris Hansen

The recall is coming, and 9 million is worth it to get rid of this guy. If he thinks it's too expensive, save us some time and resign. Otherwise keep campaigning in futility.

Posted: Sunday, January 15, 2012
Article comment by: Patrick Murphy

Wouldn't it be a lot cheaper to just wait until the next election. Oops, I forgot, all those lost union dues. Sorry bout that!

Posted: Saturday, January 14, 2012
Article comment by: Jeanette Conner

In my county office, single women were working 2-jobs to support themselves and there children. Now after Scott Walker took away our right to bargain, they are working 3-jobs. We now have different insurance and even higher deductibles. In the past we have traded wages for benefits, because we were told these were part of our wages. Why does the public not know our jobs started around $10.00 per hour, not 6-figures like federal employees. I am always hearing how Federal employees do not get there pension paid into. Well 6-figures and I could pay my own also. Many articles come out and don't give the true wages for most average employees. I love teachers, but they are not the only public workers in Wisconsin, and the rest of us did not have there benefit package, but now we suffered the same fate!

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