New shared revenue proposal aims to cure Milwaukee's pension problems, invest in public safety

NOW: New shared revenue proposal aims to cure Milwaukee’s pension problems, invest in public safety

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Shared revenue between the state and local government hasn't changed in Wisconsin in decades, but a new proposal aims to do just that.

The bipartisan proposal would spread approximately $1.5 billion in state sales tax revenue across every municipality in Wisconsin.

"What we're announcing today is the single largest investment in local governments in the history of Wisconsin," Speaker Robin Vos said.

The proposal, according to state representatives, would distribute 20% of state sales tax revenues directly to local government.

"Every single community in Wisconsin is going to get a guaranteed 10% increase," Vos said.

The sales tax rate would increase by about 2% in the City of Milwaukee and by 0.375% in Milwaukee County.

"This would give us the ability to put Milwaukee County on a good financial setting that we haven't been on for a very long time," Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley said.

Both Crowley and Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson supported the proposal at a press conference on Thursday but said it's not perfect.

"There are areas here where there are disagreements," Johnson said.

Vos said increasing shared revenue has been talked about for years, but it wasn't until Johnson took office that the conversation really pushed forward.

In Milwaukee, the funds are intended to significantly lower the city and county's pension problems.

"It will get us very close. Does this fix everybody's problems? Probably not," Crowley said.

Johnson said the proposal would put the city in a position to do a soft close of the current municipal pension system and move all future employees to Wisconsin's retirement system.

The other purpose for the funds is to invest in public safety.

The proposal includes a $300 million innovation fund that is optional for local municipalities to take part in.

"It's a three-year pilot program where we'll have the chance to innovate and watch our local partners use every bit of local creativity to be able to find a way to hopefully deliver better services at the same or lower cost," Vos said.

Vos said the proposal requires Milwaukee to increase its police force over the next few years.

"No further cuts in police, no additional cuts in libraries, any of the other services," Vos said.

Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow is not completely happy with what's on the table right now.

"With the revenues that they're talking about, I don't even cover the inflationary costs for next year," Farrow said.

Farrow said he wants to keep negotiating for a sustainable investment.

"The historic changes that I would hope would be something that would guide us for the next 20 years. It's not going to do that," Farrow said.

Negotiations are still happening. Vos said they're about 98% of the way there.

With conversation already sparking about budget cuts in Milwaukee next year, Johnson said it's unclear if they'll see this money before then.

"That's why I say that there were some disagreements," Johnson said. 

Vos said voters will get to weigh in through a referendum.

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