February 9, 2016

Residency requirement change moves ahead

A proposal to lift residency requirements for local government employees will remain in the state budget, although some workers may still face restrictions on where they can live.

The Legislature’s budget committee on Thursday left Governor Walker’s plan largely intact, although it was changed to require police, fire, and emergency personnel to live within 15 miles of the city or county they serve. Joint Finance Committee co-chair John Nygren (R-Marinette) said the distance requirement helped address key concerns about the provision, while still giving government employees a choice. Nygren said it’s just not fair to “sentence people to live in a certain area.”

Democrats and four Republicans on the committee unsuccessfully tried to remove the provision entirely. State Senator Glen Grothman (R-West Bend) raised concerns about the impact it could have on Milwaukee. If thousands of workers choose to flee the city, he worried some of the “nicest neighborhoods” could be drastically changed forever.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:09)

Many local government leaders have called on lawmakers to remove the provision, arguing it could put public safety at risk and damage local economies. Nygren has pushed for a compromise that would impose financial penalties on workers living outside the community the work for, but the effort appeared to fall short during the course of Thursday’s budget session.

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