GOP leadership calls for more action at federal, state levels amid VP Harris visit

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MILWAUKEE (CBS) -- Leaders in the Republican party used Vice President Kamala Harris' visit to Milwaukee as a chance to highlight some of the key issues the GOP feels are not being addressed at the federal, state and even local levels of government.

"We have been out working diligently as a state party, as a national party, as organizations, to really talk to the people of the city of Milwaukee," said Paul Farrow, chairman for the Republican Party of Wisconsin. "What we're hearing from the people is they're not happy."

Farrow says canvassing done by the GOP indicates folks are concerned about cost of living caused by inflation, public safety and the fentanyl crisis. Of the 394 drug-related deaths reported in Milwaukee County so far in 2022, 311 have involved fentanyl.

"A couple months ago as county executive (Waukesha), I declared fentanyl as a community health crisis. We know it's a direct correlation to what's happening at the (southern) border," Farrow said. "I'm glad that the Vice President's coming to Wisconsin. I think it's great when we have them come here to hear about our issues. I'd rather have her, in her job, get down to the border and find out what's going on and how we can solve the border issues, because what's happening now at the southern border is impacting us here in Wisconsin."

Along with Farrow, Fond du Lac District Attorney Eric Toney, who is also a candidate for Attorney General, spoke regarding an increase in violent crimes in Milwaukee. So far in 2022, 174 homicides have been reported in Milwaukee County.

"We must make sure that people of Milwaukee feel safe," Toney said. "As we see increased violent crime and a drug epidemic, the Milwaukee Police are having less officers to be able to investigate the most serious crimes."

Toney said it was unfortunate to see Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson's proposed budget, while adding an additional $20-million to MPD, will also include cutting sworn officers by one percent. Mayor Johnson says his hands are tied, and called on Toney to speak with his Republican colleagues serving in the state legislature to provide more funding to local governments.

"I would love to have more officers, I want to have more officers. Problem is that I don't get enough money from the state in order to pay for more officers," Mayor Johnson said. "Shared revenue from the state is cut and flat. We used to receive enough money in shared revenue to pay for the entirety of the police department budget, and the entirety of the fire department budget, and have tens of millions of dollars left over to invest in other local priorities. I didn't break that system. That wasn't me, that wasn't the city. That happened at the state level."

Mayor Johnson says he's open to having a conversation with anyone about fixes that need to be made to help Milwaukee, and other communities, receive the funding to provide necessary services.

"I think the more important meeting, and I'm happy to have a conversation with anybody about it, obviously engaged with him (Toney) a lot over social media and others, I think the most important conversations are with the folks in power in Madison," Mayor Johnson said. "To push the ball forward so local governments across the state, Milwaukee included, have the opportunity to raise the revenue necessary in order to fund core city services. That's what all of us want to see."

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