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Milwaukee is far from the only community seeking more revenue from the state of Wisconsin

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA downtown city skyline on Lake Michigan at twilight.
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The League of Wisconsin Municipalities says almost all communities are hitting a financial wall.

The city of Milwaukee is stepping up its efforts to get more funding from the state of Wisconsin.

But it's hardly the only local government eyeing more financial assistance from Republicans who control the State Legislatureand have a lot of say-so over the state's projected six billion dollar budget surplus.

Monday, a Milwaukee Common Council committee endorsed the city's state legislative wish list for the next two years. The package includes increasing all sources of intergovernmental funding, especially shared revenue. Every two years, the state shares with local governments some of the sales and income tax money it collects.

Milwaukee Intergovernmental Relations Director Kimberly Montgomery speaks to the Judiciary and Legislation Committee of the Milwaukee Common Council on Monday.
Milwaukee City Channel
Milwaukee Intergovernmental Relations Director Kimberly Montgomery speaks to the Judiciary and Legislation Committee of the Milwaukee Common Council on Monday.

Milwaukee Intergovernmental Relations Director Kimberly Montgomery told Ald. Mark Chambers, Jr. that many cities around the state are asking for an increase.

"Because of the fact that shared revenue has remained stagnant for so many years, and we've had to endure cuts, and so has everyone else to the bare bone right now," Montgomery said.

Chambers replied, "Yeah. I mean it's easy to have a $6.6 billion surplus when, like you said, you are cutting people to the bare minimum."

Milwaukee is also eyeing potential funding sources like a public safety grant from the state, or a city sales tax.

Jerry Deschane is executive director of The League of Wisconsin Municipalities. He contends at least 95% of cities, villages, towns and counties in the state have either hit a financial wall or fear they will do so in the near future.

Deschane says many communities have hit state-imposed caps on property tax hikes, and he argues the shared revenue system doesn't work anymore.

"And as a result, communities dealing with inflation, communities dealing with growing populations, are in an unsustainable box," Deschane tells WUWM.

While local officials are expressing some optimism that the state will help them out of that box, the—at least public—stance from GOP leaders like Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is caution. The Racine County state lawmaker recently told a Madison forum that local spending reforms need to be part of any deal.

"I'm waiting—and I have been saying this over and over— I'm waiting for the reform proposals that get matched with new revenue. But it almost always focuses on, 'Give us the revenue, and we'll figure that out later,' as they create goofy positions inside government, as they do all this DEI mumbo-jumbo," Vos says.

DEI stands for diversity, equity and inclusion, and many employers, both in the public and private sectors, say they are committed to it.

Deschane says communities need to do a better job of explaining where they have economized and consolidated.

"That's been going on since the system tightened up twenty years ago. And we're always looking for new ways to do that," he says.

On Dec. 15, Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson and Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley plan another trip to Madison to make their case for more revenue as they meet with state lawmakers and the news media.

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