As Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and the state Legislature mull over the question of increasing state shared revenue and providing Milwaukee with an additional sales tax, “yes” and “no” result in clearly differing outcomes.
The Wisconsin Policy Forum memo points to these outcomes over the next five years:
City of Milwaukee
A further budget cut of $24 million starting in 2024 on a $640 million general purposes budget.
A structural budget deficit running more than $100 million by 2025.
Necessary budget cuts of $133 million, or 20% of the base budget, by 2028.
Its $1.1 billion budget will face a $22 million deficit by 2024.
Structurally, its deficit will run more than $60 million by 2025.
And budget cuts will grow to $87 million by 2028, 8% of the base budget.
Increasing state shared revenue for local governments seems to be building a consensus. Gov. Evers and the Legislature must also grant Milwaukee the ability to levy an additional sales tax. The city currently does not have access to a sales tax.
Choosing "yes" means Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee have a fighting chance to address their looming pension liabilities and restore vital quality of life services like police and fire. Sales tax revenue will also help restoration of our parks, arts and cultural amenities that make this region attractive to the talent that drives our economy.
Yes, is not a “bailout.” It’s an investment in an economic partnership between Milwaukee and Wisconsin. The state can expect growing revenue collected from income and sales taxes generated by Milwaukee’s robust economy.
No new sales tax also produces a demonstrable result. MMAC recently asked the Wisconsin Policy Forum to spell out a future without a local option sales tax and an increase in state shared revenue. Click here to see what it looks like for the citizens of Milwaukee, or for that matter, anyone who lives, works, plays, or learns here.
To be blunt, the city of Milwaukee will continue its trend of public safety cuts. For citizens and visitors, services will go from lean to mean. The county will also absorb additional steep cuts, struggle to meet pension costs, and add to a looming backlog of $1 billion for capital repair and replacement, with nowhere to go.
So, the real question is, which future do we want?