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Milwaukee County budget battle continues with public hearing

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Discussions on the proposed Milwaukee County budget is well underway and it's getting ugly.

Monday night at a public hearing held at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, Milwaukee County Board Chairman Theodore Lipscomb accused Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele of pushing "an unprecedented propaganda campaign" in the form of tv and radio ads.

This is what part of the disagreement boils down to: Abele presented his budget that included a $60 wheel tax. A referendum asking voters if they would approve of that plan failed last November. Now Lipscomb is promoting his budget amendment which includes 0.75% across-the-board cut.

But Lipscomb says that his plan is being misrepresented by political advertisements that exaggerate the size and effects of the cuts.

"The ad campaign comes straight out of Abele's office. The same rhetoric is being used by both. It's a misleading campaign. It's shameful that he's using his political campaign machine to try to distort what is a public policy process," Lipscomb said.

Lipscomb says his budget amendment would decrease the tax levy, decrease borrowing, and decrease the use of savings for the county.

But Abele says that Lipscomb is downplaying the situation.

"As I've said, and I've said it last year when I included the wheel tax in the budget - nobody likes the idea of a wheel tax. But the point is it is not simply a choice of wheel tax or not. It's wheel tax or extreme cuts in services," Abele said.

But Lipscomb accuses Abele of being insincere in the process of identifying areas to cut.

"72% of voters rejected the $60 wheel tax that Abele proposed last year. He's resurrected that again. I've not heard from residents and constituents that they've changed their minds - even in the face of our proposals that save money," Lipscomb said.

On Tuesday supervisors will be able to file additional amendments to the budget proposal. The Milwaukee County Board's Finance Committee meets on Wednesday.

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