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Speaker Vos threatens to pull Milwaukee funding unless deal is reached


Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos threatened to remove Milwaukee-related proposals from the spending bill giving local governments in Wisconsin more funding.

Vos said he would do that if the Republican-led legislature and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers don't come to a deal on spending this week, according to reporting from the Associated Press .

“I feel like if we want to get something done, it’s going to be this week,” Vos said at a news conference.

“That is not my first option,” Vos said. “We want to try and get this across the finish line.”

Vos’s suggestion on Wednesday threatens the increase in aid for Milwaukee, the Associated Press notes. County and city leaders, facing insolvency as soon as 2025, have warned of dire consequences, including deep cuts to police, fire protection and emergency services. Vos says stripping Milwaukee out of the funding plan isn't his first option, but work on the state budget must continue and not having a deal is holding that up, according to the AP.

Previous reporting:

Shared revenue bill: Public hearing shows promising signs to avert Milwaukee 'doomsday scenarios'

By Julia Fello, May 23, 2023

Public hearing on shared revenue plan

MADISON, Wis. — A plan to send more tax money back to local governments now rests with the state Senate. The current bill increases shared revenue for every municipality in our state by 15 percent. The one exception is the City of Milwaukee, which would receive a 10-percent shared revenue increase.

The bill also includes increasing the sales tax by 2 percent in the City of Milwaukee and 0.375 percent in Milwaukee County. But as you will read, there are provisions.

Milwaukee County's current sales tax is 5.5 percent. Five percent of that amount goes straight to the state pot, while the half-percent left over stays in Milwaukee County. Area leaders, which include the mayor and county executive, say that is not enough. They came to Madison to warn if the sales taxes are not raised, the city alone could fall off a fiscal cliff by 2025.

Mayor Cavalier Johnson said, "If the bill doesn't pass, those doomsday scenarios that I talked about in there will come to fruition."

In a packed public hearing Tuesday, we heard what a 25-percent budget gap would look like for Milwaukee's police and fire if the city's sales tax does not go up by two-percent.

"They are projected cutting 545 police officers and about 209 firemen if there isn't an increase," said Republican State Senator Mary Felzkowski during the hearing.

Neglected city and county pension liabilities are to blame for how we got here.

County Executive David Crowley shared Milwaukee County's pension costs consume one-third of their total levy, "Our structural deficit is expected to reach $109 million by 2028."

He said that amount is higher than most department's budgets, "It's greater than the funding we put into our courts sheriff medical examiner district attorney emergency management..."

Crowley hopes Milwaukee County taxes can be raised by 0.375% to meet that gap.

Meanwhile, a hiccup could prevent anything from moving forward. The Assembly passed a bill requiring a voter referendum to increase sales taxes. Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu is open to the idea of it being passed by the city council and county board. That's something the mayor is for, so long as it will not require a unanimous vote. "If you look at any legislative body and ask for unanimity on any one particular issue it would present challenges," he said.

There are provisions Milwaukee's Common Council President Jose Perez asked the Senate committee to remove. This includes not allowing sales tax dollars to fund The Hop street car, bringing school resource officers into Milwaukee Public Schools, and altering the city's equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts. Perez believes EDI would be greatly curtailed, saying it "Threatens smaller initiatives years in development to ensure that all Milwaukeeans are part of the dynamic growth in the city."

Showing a lot more ironing out needs to be done.

Lawmakers want to get this bill to the governor's desk before July 1, when the state has to have a new biennial budget.

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