GOP proposal gives 10% funding boost to local governments and series of requirements for Milwaukee

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A Republican bill to revamp the shared revenue formula has officially been introduced that will give all local governments a 10% increase in state aid and includes an extensive list of requirements targeting Milwaukee.

The proposal would provide $227 million in new funding for local governments under the wide-ranging and highly anticipated bill released Tuesday. The money could only be used for police, fire, EMS, transportation, public works, and other emergency services.

It comes days after Republican lawmakers and Milwaukee leaders including, Mayor Cavalier Johnson and County Executive David Crowley, teased the framework of the proposal that includes requiring both the city and county to pass a referendum to pay for its pension obligations.

The legislation was introduced as the amount of money the state provides to local governments has been frozen for years, putting many communities and Milwaukee in a financial pinch.

Under the new formula, smaller municipalities would see a larger increase in shared revenue. That means significantly less money for Milwaukee which would see one the smallest increases, according to a memo by the nonpartisan Fiscal Bureau

The city of Milwaukee would receive a 10% increase or $21.7 million, under the plan. Milwaukee County would get an additional $6.8 million to its current allocation of $47 million, a 14.6% increase. In compassion, the Town of Lawrence in Brown County would see a 989% boost in shared revenue. It gets $18,015 now, and would get $196,254.

Top Democrats criticized the proposal before it was released due to the series of policy provisions Republicans attached to the bill.

Sen. LaTonya Johnson said the multiple requirements Milwaukee would have to implement, including a referendum to increase their sales tax, would be "like holding a loaded gun to our heads.”

"The choice will be to either accept what’s proposed or watch Milwaukee go bankrupt," Johnson said.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Tony Kurtz, said the intention of the provisions is to reverse budget cuts to the fire and police departments from past years.

"We want to give (Milwaukee) the ability to help (itself), but part of this deal is we also want you to focus on fighting crime," Kurtz said.

Provisions that Target Milwaukee:

  • Allow the city to levy a 2% sales tax and allow Milwaukee County to add another 0.375% sales tax to its current 0.5% sales tax. If approved by voters, the money would be directed towards pension payments and public safety measures and enter new employees into the state pension system.
  • Hire 25 school resources officers (SRO's) in Milwaukee Public Schools after they were removed in 2020.
  • Require the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission to oversee policies of "control and management" of police and fire departments transfers
  • Prohibit the use of tax dollars on streetcar operations, extensions
  • A maximum of 5% of the county's total budget could be used for "cultural or entertainment matters or involving partnerships with nonprofit groups."
  • Require the city to maintain current staffing levels of police and fire
  • Requires an audit of the Office of Violence Prevention.
  • Direct new funding to Milwaukee County towards courts, correctional officers, and the Medical Examiner’s office

Measures That Apply to All Local Governments Include:

  • Collecting data on the number of crimes that occur on school grounds
  • Banning local advisory referendums
  • Approving projects under the state's land stewardship program north of U.S. Highway 8 (runs throughout the northern part of the state).
  • Local health officials would be prohibited from closing businesses for longer than two weeks due to an epidemic

Local governments that consolidate services, such as police or fire departments, could see additional funds under a $300 million pilot program included in the proposal.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Tony Evers declined to comment on the bill. Instead, his staff referenced an interview that was recorded before the bill was released where the governor said, "I haven't signed off on anything."

The governor did meet with GOP leaders to discuss the bill last week. He has vetoed some provisions included in the Republican-authored proposal such as taking away control from local health officials.

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