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Milwaukee Officials Stress Importance Of Increased Local Revenue At Joint Finance Hearing

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Ann Althouse
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Milwaukee Common Council President Cavalier Johnson advocated for Gov. Tony Ever's proposal to allow a local sales tax option and a 2% increase in state aid to cover budget short falls in Milwaukee.

The Republican-controlled Joint Committee on Finance held a public hearing in Rhinelander, Wisconsin on Wednesday for Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ budget proposal. Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley and Milwaukee Common Council President Cavalier Johnson attended the hearing and stressed the importance of increased revenue for Milwaukee County.

Over the past decade, Crowley said the county has closed a budget gap of roughly $30 million each year, but that the high cost of the county’s pension and state mandated services are rising faster than the county is able to pay for them. If Milwaukee County does not close an additional gap of $300 million over the next 16 years, he said it may come at a cost for residents.

“In the next six years there will be ... no local dollars for local services,” Crowley said. “This means there will be no funding for our public safety or senior services, parks, emergency management, disability services, bus routes, roads and more.”

While Crowley said getting rid of services is not a sustainable way to cut costs, the county needs to gain more revenue and maintain its economic competitiveness.

Milwaukee Common Council President Cavalier Johnson was also concerned about cuts in state aid to the city. He said the increased cost of the Milwaukee Police Department has forced the city to cut nearly 200 officers over the past two years.

“The problem we need to solve is really quite simple — our costs, especially related to pension and wage benefits for public safety, continue to rise and our revenues have remained flat,” he said.

Johnson asked the committee to maintain Gov. Evers’ proposal to allow a local sales tax option and requested a 2% increase in state aid.

The committee will hold another in-person public hearing Thursday in Menominee, along with a virtual public hearing next week. Then it will spend weeks making changes to the governor’s budget proposal, before sending it to the full Legislature for a vote.

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