Under GOP shared revenue bill, cities and counties could lose funding if they make fewer arrests

NOW: Under GOP shared revenue bill, cities and counties could lose funding if they make fewer arrests

WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Local officials outside of Milwaukee are panning the fine print in Assembly Republicans' bill aimed at overhauling how the state funds local governments.

Under one section, cities and counties risk a 15% cut in state funding if they fail to meet certain criteria, which include having their local law enforcement agencies maintain the number of arrests they make and tickets they write.

Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow, a former chairman of the state GOP, said in an interview Wednesday he was confident the provisions violate state law, which bans police quotas.

The bill states local governments must meet two out of four requirements, or else they'll take a 15% cut in state aid. The requirements include:

  • Maintaining the amount of money spent on police, fire and EMS from the previous year
  • Do not eliminate any police, fire or EMS positions
  • Maintain the number of tickets written for moving violations compared to the previous year
  • Maintain the number of arrests made compared to the previous year

"Now we're encouraging more arrests, just so we can maintain this level," Farrow said. "My goal, and I believe the goal of the sheriff, is to reduce crime in Waukesha County. We would love to be able to arrest fewer people because our crime is down."

Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride said he was also troubled by the "maintenance of effort" language regarding first responders. He said for a city that allocates 25% of its budget to police, 25% to fire and 25% to public works, being forced to maintain police staffing levels, regardless of inflation, could lead to cuts elsewhere.

McBride added, in a given year, it might be impossible to replace every officer lost because of attrition. Beyond that, he suggested local governments were largely in their current financial mess because the state caps how much property tax revenue they can generate.

"To have this maintenance of effort requirement for police and fire, means that over time, with the property tax levy cap and the increase in inflation, it means we're gonna be laying off our snowplow drivers, our garbage collectors," McBride said.

McBride said he also was disturbed by language in the bill banning all local governments from giving preference on the basis of race and sexual orientation when giving out contracts for municipal work.

"The bill would force us to pull back on our efforts to increase minority hiring for construction projects in Wauwatosa," he said.

'They have not solved the problem'

McBride and Farrow added they felt local governments weren't getting enough of a funding boost under the bill. 

Waukesha County would appear to be one of the biggest winners under the bill. The county currently gets $646,450 annually in shared revenue. The Assembly GOP plan would boost the county's share of shared revenue to more than $3.8 million, an increase of more than 500%.

For context, Milwaukee County currently gets about $47 million annually. Under the bill, the county would get an increase of nearly $7 million, bringing its shared revenue amount to a little less than $54 million.

Farrow argued the increase was misleading because it would hardly be enough to offset the cost of inflation alone. He took aim at a $300 million fund Republicans want to reserve for local governments that demonstrate an innovative change that saved money.

He said that $300 million pot should be merged with the $227 million shared revenue formula the bill divides among cities and counties based on their population and how much they've previously received.

The state currently divides about $753 million between its cities and counties, a number that has been frozen at that level since 2004.

"Scrap the innovation fund," Farrow said.

McBride lamented the increase Wauwatosa would receive, because it amounts to less than 1% of the city's total budget. Wauwatosa currently gets about $703,000 in shared revenue. The bill would nearly double that amount to $1.39 million.

The City of Milwaukee currently receives more than $217 million in shared revenue. The GOP bill boosts that amount by about 10% to $239 million.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson ignored questions about the shared revenue at an event Wednesday. A city spokesman said Johnson would not comment on the bill until he gives testimony at a public hearing for the legislation Thursday in Madison.

But with property tax caps still in place, and a string of requirements tied to that money, McBride said while he appreciated the legislature revamping shared revenue, he questioned whether this particular proposal would be worth the trouble for local governments.

"What I've been hearing from some legislators, which is, 'look at us, look what we've done; we've solved the problem for the foreseeable future,'" McBride said. "They have not solved the problem."

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