Doyle Fires a Warning Shot at Walker

Dispatch: Gubernatorial Politics

Doyle fires warning shot at Walker.
By Aaron Rodriguez


With the 2010 election season approaching, Gov. Jim Doyle made a sharp preemptive strike against a potential challenger, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker. Doyle's secretary of Health Services, Karen Timberlake, announced in February that the state will assume direct control of Milwaukee County's public assistance programs because, she said, Walker's administration has demonstrated a sustained inability to successfully provide services to its poor customers.

If this were true, why didn't the state step up earlier to offer help? Instead of teaming up with Walker to improve the supposedly impaired services, Doyle demonstrated just how politically dangerous it would be for Walker to develop a gubernatorial itch.

Walker responded by arguing that the state underfunds mandated programs. (This is a familiar complaint among local officials in Wisconsin.) So what is Doyle's solution? The state will assume control over the Milwaukee County Call Center, which handles citizen inquiries for programs like BadgerCare Plus and FoodShare, and he will install state managers to run the medical assistance, child care and food aid programs, while keeping understaffed caseworkers on the county payroll.

In short, Doyle's solution is to add a new level of bureaucracy and create an untested state/county hybrid model of management, while sticking the county with the bill.

In political terms, Doyle created enough commotion to divert attention from the state's looming budget shortfall of $5.7 billion. The convenient timing of the takeover, the irresponsible lack of funding and the questionable solution of hybrid management all point to Doyle engaging in political game-playing, not responsible government.

Aaron Rodriguez blogs at