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Local people and local officials are best informed to make decisions for their communities. But Republicans in the state Legislature often disagree with things liberal Milwaukee local officials want to do. Although local control has long been a conservative value, Republicans that control the Legislature often make an exception when it comes to Milwaukee.
The latest example of this is Gov. Tony Evers’ proposal to allow local communities to increase their sales tax, if approved by voters. But with Republicans opposed to any and all tax increases, it’s dead on arrival in the Legislature.
School districts in Wisconsin can increase property taxes if voters approve a referendum, but local communities can’t increase their sales tax, even via referendum, without permission from the Legislature.
Two years ago a coalition that included the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and the Greater Milwaukee Committee backed an increase in the Milwaukee County sales tax to reduce property taxes and fund local government. Despite that endorsement from business community leaders, Republicans in the Legislature remain opposed.
Whether you think increasing the sales tax is a good idea or a bad idea, shouldn’t that decision be made by local residents instead of by legislators who live in other parts of the state?
The main reason Republicans give for opposing tax increases is they feel our taxes are already too high and the state’s residents and businesses shouldn’t have to pay any more. Local governments should find ways to cut spending instead.
Act 10, the biggest achievement of Republicans during Scott Walker’s time as governor, stripped collective bargaining power from public employee unions and gave local officials new tools to reduce spending. However, Act 10 does not apply to police and fire unions. It should, but Republicans made an exception, so it doesn’t.
This is an issue for Milwaukee which has large, and therefore costly, police and fire departments. If you want Milwaukee officials to lower their costs, the Legislature should make Act 10 apply to police and fire unions as well.
There has been discussion about lowering the Police Department budget in Milwaukee. Of course, totally “defunding the police” is a terrible idea. But reallocating some of the Police Department budget towards other programs that could help prevent crime in the first place is worth considering. Again, whether you think this is a good idea or a bad one, shouldn’t it be made by local officials?
Well, some Republicans disagree and have drafted legislation to reduce funding from communities that cut their police budgets. In other words, cut spending, but not that spending.
Republicans in the Legislature also hurt Milwaukee by outlawing the city’s residency rule, another policy decision that should be made locally.
Wisconsin’s municipalities are not all the same. Big cities, suburbs, small towns and rural areas all have different needs. The solutions to their problems are not one-size-fits all, dictated from Madison. Allow local officials the control to solve local problems.