Legislature sends bill punishing cities for defunding police to governor's desk

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- State lawmakers passed a bill punishing cities in Wisconsin that reduce their public safety budgets.

The bill comes after activists have called for defunding police departments following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The bill would punish cities that cut public safety budgets for any reason.

Milwaukee's police budget is $2 million smaller than a year ago. $295 million, versus $297 million.

If the bill is signed into law, the state would cut the same amount from Milwaukee's state aid.

"This is the height of hypocrisy," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

He said Republican state lawmakers have ignored his cries for years for more money to keep Milwaukee safe.

"Fiscally, not philosophically, but fiscally they've realized we don't have the funds to have the size of the police department that they think is necessary and so they're going to cut fund, it's insane," said Barrett.

Milwaukee's police budget was reduced by $2 million this year. 120 officer positions are being lost through attrition. But state lawmakers are reacting to chants heard across the country.

"We see all across the United States, people putting pressure on local governments to cut funding for the police," said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. (R-Rochester)

He said public safety is critical and those budgets shouldn't be touched.

"There are a lot of challenges that we face in this society, but I can't think of a single problem that we face that can be solved by having fewer police officers," said Vos.

The Wisconsin Department of Revenue said 253 cities reported lower law enforcement spending between 2017 and 2018. Their lobbying group said the bill would take away local control.

"Takes away a local elected official's ability to make its decisions about financials, their own local budgets," said League of Wisconsin Municipalities Deputy Executive Director Curt Witynksi.

Cities get much of their money from property taxes and state aid.

Democratic Governor Tony Evers is unlikely to sign the bill into law.

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