We're already seeing the wide-reaching impact of Gov. Scott McCallum's proposal to eliminate shared revenues to local governments - and the budget repair bill isn't even through the Legislature yet.<p>The Tomahawk City Council has a contingency plan in the works to reduce its budget to make up for the lost revenues. In Merrill, 11 teachers are working under the ominous axe after receiving notice that their jobs are on the line if proposed state budget cuts come to fruition. The Merrill School District still has about $1 million to cut, even with the teacher lay-offs, to stay afloat.
The City of Merrill, Lincoln County and virtually every other municipality in the state has similar hard choices to make.<p>McCallum says he wants to facilitate a fundamental change in the structure of Wisconsin government. He is hoping to see the number of government entities reduced through consolidation. That's a fine goal, but not likely to work under friendly circumstances. We just don't see townships giving up their local governments without a fight. But, this is a fight in which the small municipalities are outgunned by the state.<p>With the proposed budget cuts laid out in the City of Tomahawk, we can better understand the impact of McCallum's budget repair plan. Tomahawk would lose its summer recreation program, lifeguards at SARA Park and additional park maintenance in the summers. We'll have to live with bumpier roads and the police department won't have the latest equipment. <p>Yes, we will survive. But the cuts targeted so far only cover this year. By 2004, the cuts would have to go about a half-million dollars deeper. That's going to force the city to not only change the way it does business, but we're going to lose more services, no doubt about it.<p>The state can't just pull the rug out from under local governments without offering some kind of new program to replace the shared revenue system. If McCallum really wants to reduce local government in Wisconsin, he should present an organized process for doing so. This survival of the fittest approach to weeding out government entities isn't the answer.