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Wisconsin Democrat Kathleen Vinehout, who is considering a run for governor in 2018, is sounding alarm bells about the state budget proposed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker -- who appears to be preparing to run for a third term.
In a Feb. 20, 2017 interview, the state senator from Alma was asked by Wisconsin Public Radio talk show host Joy Cardin about a column she had written about Walker’s 2017-’19 spending plan, which was released a couple of weeks earlier.
The column highlighted what Vinehout -- who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination to run against Walker in the 2012 gubernatorial recall election -- described as little known details about the budget.
Cardin wanted to know why there would be a large increase in the number of people working for the Department of Administration.
That’s a department, whose secretary is appointed by Walker, that works closely with the governor’s office.
Vinehout replied by saying 485 positions would be added to the department "in the category of supervisor and management," although in many cases, they would be people transferred from other departments.
"It really kind of takes the whole heart of state government -- especially as money flows in and out of agencies, and puts it into the Department of Administration," she added.
Leaving aside Vinehout’s view of the impact of the move, let’s check whether Walker is proposing to add 485 positions "in the category of supervisor and management" to his Department of Administration.
The major functions of the Department of Administration include helping the governor develop and implement the state budget and supporting other state agencies with centralized purchasing and financial management. The department also coordinates telecommunications, energy, and land use planning and community development, and it regulates racing, charitable gaming and Indian gaming.
Walker’s budget, which must be approved by the Legislature, would increase the department’s positions in both years of the budget. The new total for the department would be 1,149 positions -- an increase of 485. And those positions are listed under the heading of "supervision and management."
But Bob Lang, director of the nonpartisan state Legislative Fiscal Bureau, gave us some context about the 485:
The majority of positions are held by existing employees who work for other agencies; these are not new state government positions.
The majority would continue to physically work in those agencies, such as the Department of Natural Resources, but would become employees of the Department of Administration.
Despite the designation in the budget document as "supervision and management," the vast majority would not be supervisors or managers -- rather they are involved in the supervision and management of human resource activities such as employee recruitment and assistance, training, and payroll and benefits.
Walker says the primary aim is to "assign various administrative functions to a single entity, allowing individual agencies to focus on their core business missions and avoid redundant efforts on services that can be offered most effectively from a central entity."
But it’s also true that if the Legislature goes along with Walker’s plan, those employees would be more directly under his control.
In sounding alarms about Walker’s budget, Vinehout says the governor is proposing to add 485 positions "in the category of supervisor and management" to his Department of Administration.
Vinehout is correct on the number and, technically, they are "in the category" of supervisor and management. But while they are involved in the supervision and management of human resource activities, the vast majority are not actually in supervisory or management positions.
For a statement that is accurate but needs clarification, our rating is Mostly True.
Wisconsin Public Radio, Kathleen Vinehout interview (7:00), Feb. 20, 2017
Pierce County Herald, "Kathleen Vinehout column: A few budget details that didn't make headlines," Feb. 16, 2017
Wisconsin Department of Administration, "Budget in Brief," February 2017
Wisconsin Department of Administration, "Executive Budget," page 38, February 2017
Email, Scott Walker spokesman Tom Evenson, Feb. 22, 2017
Email, Kathleen Vinehout chief of staff Linda Kleinschmidt, Feb. 23, 2017
Interview, Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau director Bob Lang, Feb. 24, 2017
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