Several local officials want to have a referendum asking voters to increase the Milwaukee County sales tax to 6.5% (it’s currently 5.6%) to provide more funds for local government and reduce property taxes. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett appeared on UpFront with Adrienne Pedersen on WISN-TV Channel 12 to explain the idea. Meanwhile, in a letter to Republican leaders in the state Legislature, Milwaukee alderman Bob Donovan says he supports the referendum proposal, but says a sales tax increase should only be allowed if it can’t be “mismanaged” by Barrett.
TB: “On a relative basis, our property taxes are the problem. (But) our sales tax is relatively low. Twenty-five percent of this money, $40 million, would go back to property taxpayers in the form of a credit. So, right off the bat, $40 million of the $160 million we would raise would go to property tax relief.”
BD: “I urge (Legislative leaders) to scrutinize very carefully the recent proposal … and to ensure that the enabling legislation does as much as possible to prevent the misuse of these funds by the administration of Mayor Barrett … I do not believe that this administration will properly manage this revenue…”
TB: “Right now our budget next year is going to require us to reduce the number of police officers we have. I do not want to do that. The way for us to avoid that is to have this sales tax so we can have the number of police officers we need.”
BD: “This administration in recent years … has demonstrated an animus towards public safety, with consistent reductions in the staffing of the fire department, a refusal to maintain the sworn strength of the police department, and reductions in necessary equipment purchases.”
What taxpayers want
TB: “The business community has been very helpful. I think they understand what we’re trying to do. We have to explain it to the voters. I think the voters understand the challenges we face as a city and as a county … I think people understand when you have a sales tax, 25 to 30 percent of it is going to come from visitors.”
BD: “Our residents want safe, clean streets; timely garbage collection; an adequate supply of inspectors tasked with abating nuisances; and a robust fire/rescue service … (Barrett) has diverted millions of federal dollars to the Milwaukee Streetcar and threatens to pour millions of dollars into its continued operation.”