My Take: Sales tax proposal

Coins stacked

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.

Tom Barrett Milwaukee Mayor
Tom Barrett, Milwaukee Mayor, Supporter
Bob Donovan Alderman
Bob Donovan, Alderman, wants safeguards

The funds

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…”

Public safety

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.”

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