Milwaukee Rep. Evan Goyke and Sen. LaTonya Johnson have introduced a new bill to help Milwaukee gain more control over its revenue streams. The move comes as a coalition of local leaders seeks new ways to enhance and secure Milwaukee’s public services and revenues.
“It’s time to Move Forward Milwaukee,” Goyke declared in a statement on the bill. “This legislation empowers the people of Milwaukee County to decide their future by shifting away from an over reliance on property taxes and uniting communities throughout the county by capturing the benefit of our shared economic success.”
Sales taxes in Milwaukee have become stagnant, which prompted the city to raise property taxes to cover basic services, including police, fire fighters and public works. Milwaukee has been a target for criticism and revenue cuts by Republican state lawmakers for years. The dynamic came to a head after Gov. Tony Evers was elected, and a budget battle ensued with Milwaukee at the center. It was during that time that Goyke told Wisconsin Examiner, “We need to evangelize the greatness that is Milwaukee.”
Goyke’s bill allows the electors of Milwaukee County to authorize sales tax increases of 1%, bringing the sales tax up to 6.5%. The press release for the bill mentions that this is still lower than the 10.21% sales tax in Chicago, 8.025% in Minneapolis, and 7% in Des Moines. Careful note is made of the fact that while property taxes are born exclusively by owners or renters of property, both residents and visitors contribute to sales taxes.
“A strong Milwaukee means a strong Wisconsin,” said Johnson. “I’m proud to be part of this initiative that will allow Milwaukee to be better partners with the state by ensuring our communities have the tools they need to thrive.” Johnson said she is excited “to work with legislators on both sides of the aisle to move this proposal forward.”
The “Move Milwaukee Forward” coalition includes Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, Mayor Tom Barrett, and local business and elected officials, and aims to establish a new relationship with the state. Through the coalition’s work pushing bills like Goyke’s, the group hopes an extra $160 million could return to Milwaukee within the first year.
“For years,” said Abele, “we have been doing more with less as state aids continue to decline.”
“Having the option to generate local revenue represents a watershed moment for us to not only sustain ourselves,” the county executive added, “but to thrive for generations to come.”