Johnson, Crowley visit Madison to make the case for more state aid to the Milwaukee area
Milwaukee's Mayor and County Executive met with key Wisconsin legislators in Madison Thursday as the local officials continued their push for more financial help from state government.
Mayor Cavalier Johnson and County Executive David Crowley also made their case to Madison lobbyists and others attending a WisPolitics.com luncheon.
Johnson told attendees that over the last two decades or so, the city has lost out on $155 million because state shared revenue payments have been frozen and not gone up with inflation.
He said not having that money causes local challenges.
"I just want to keep the lights on, make sure I'm able to pay for police services. I want to make sure we don't continue this trend of shuttering, year after year, firehouses across Milwaukee which also affects public safety," Johnson said.
County Executive Crowley said he doesn't think state lawmakers will ever increase shared revenue enough for Milwaukee County. So, he's partly focusing on getting authority for an additional 1% local sales tax.
"This will help to generate $180 million for the entire year. We would like to use those dollars to buy down property taxes and splitting those dollars between the city and the county," Crowley said.
Republicans controlling the legislature continue to say that Milwaukee and other local governments need to control costs before getting more money.
Crowley said for one thing, he and Johnson are looking at reducing county and city pension costs.
"One of the things we'd like to see is how we can do a soft freeze moving forward, taking care of our obligations with those employed by the city and Milwaukee County, and how we can move forward with new employees entering into the Wisconsin Retirement System," Crowley said.
The state retirement system is thought to be in very solid financial shape.
Johnson said the city has also tightened its belt over the years.
"We eliminated over one-thousand employees at the city of Milwaukee. We've had employees pay more into their pension. We've had employees pay more into their health care," Johnson said.
Johnson said the city and county may be able to collaborate on more services.
The mayor said Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers backs him on increasing state aid to local governments.
Over the next few months, we'll see what sort of a deal the local officials can make with state Republicans, who continue to talk more about turning the huge projected state budget surplus into tax cuts. That includes a flat tax plan, which would have big benefits for the wealthy.