Milwaukee, Wis. — Representative Evan Goyke and Senator La Tonya Johnson, in partnership with Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and local business leaders and elected officials, announced this week plans to move forward and pursue a new partnership with the State. The proposed bill would allow Milwaukee and local municipalities to pursue a binding referendum for a 1 percent local option sales tax that would be reinvested into the community through property tax relief, and countywide priorities. “It is time to Move Forward Milwaukee,” said Wisconsin State Representative Evan Goyke, District 18. “Our local governments need the opportunity to realize a portion of the return on investment they’ve made in building strong communities. 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.”
The proposed plan could bring in an extra $160 million in the first year, with more than 25 percent of this income projected to come from visitors and non-residents. The additional revenue is expected to be used for local priorities including: the reduction of property taxes; investments in municipal facilities, community assets and services; and addressing capital projects and deferred maintenance. “For years we have been doing more with less as state aids continue to decline, and having the option to generate local revenue represents a watershed moment for us to not only sustain ourselves, but to thrive for generations to come,” said Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele. “This plan is the best way forward for us to give Milwaukee County taxpayers the services and programs they deserve.” “Together we are focused on a solution that empowers local voters to decide how our fiscal challenges are addressed,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said. “With their approval, we can ease the squeeze on local budgets for police, firefighters, and roads.” Under this plan, Milwaukee County taxpayers will have the option to raise the sales tax to 6.5 percent, still among the lowest nationwide. The proposed 1 percent local option sales tax will not be added to essential items including groceries, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment. The State of Wisconsin currently gives local governments the fewest alternatives in the country to levy local taxes alternative to a property tax. According to the Wisconsin Policy Forum (WPF), a statewide nonpartisan, independent policy research organization, Wisconsin ranks seventh in the nation and first in the Midwest for its reliance on property taxes for funding municipalities. A recent report shows that while most states more frequently rely on sales tax to fund operations, Wisconsin’s is the lowest in the Midwest. The report follows up on one from 2017 that suggested the funding structure for Milwaukee was outdated and ineffective. The On the Money report can be found at https://wispolicyforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/OnTheMoney_Full.pdf. This effort is supported by an unprecedented level of bipartisan legislative, community and business leaders in Milwaukee County. The plan to introduce a local option sales tax to the Wisconsin State legislature this fall, and bring the referendum to voters in Spring 2020. For more information, visit www.moveforwardmke.com.