Both chambers of the Wisconsin Legislature on Wednesday approved an historic compromise to overhaul state funding for local governments. The shared revenue bill will provide an additional $275 million to counties and municipalities. It’s now ready for Governor Tony Evers’ signature. Evers negotiated the deal with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu.
It’s my job as governor to always work to do the right thing when it matters most.
We’re securing over $1 billion for our kids and our schools to improve reading and kids’ mental health while making historic investments in our communities. This is a win for Wisconsin. https://t.co/kZ2dyqjXib
— Governor Tony Evers (@GovEvers) June 15, 2023
Key provisions of the measure would allow the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County raise local sales taxes with two-thirds votes by the city’s common council and the county board. Those revenue would be used to pay down pension debt and preserve police staffing.
There are also requirements of, and restrictions on, how the city can allocate the additional revenue generated. Milwaukee will be prohibited from using sales tax revenue to fund diversity, equity and inclusion or “The Hop” streetcar. The city’s police and fire commissions will lose oversight authority, and Milwaukee Public Schools will be required to hire police officers.
During Assembly debate, those provisions were criticized by Milwaukee Democrats. “I’m going to fight like hell to get these policies off our books because codifying laws that attack minority communities and attacking local control is not reasonable,” said Representative Dora Drake.
Representative Supreme Moore Omokunde addressed Speaker Robin Vos. “This is not a good deal Mr. Speaker. But know this. Your days of futile power are coming to an end Milwaukee is strong our leaders are strong.”
Wisconsin Republicans should know that their rigged maps and pompous lawmaking will not keep them in power in perpetuity – particularly after April 4th.
I voted NO today on shared revenue – why? Because the GOP continues to wage war on Milwaukee and Milwaukee County. https://t.co/Sib450QErV
— Rep. Supreme Moore Omokunde (@rep_smo) June 15, 2023
Drake and Moore Omokunde voted no. And Representative Jessie Rodriguez, an Oak Creek Republican and one of the bill’s original sponsors, couldn’t support it after tax increase referendums were removed.
“It conveys the message that legislators don’t value the public’s input or even worse that we don’t trust their judgment when it comes to critical decisions that impact their community’s financial future,” Rodriguez said.
“I do want to see the pensions for the city in the county of Milwaukee going to the state going forward, and I do want to see shared revenue being tied to inflation for the entire state,” said Milwaukee Representative Sylvia Ortiz-Velez, one of 12 Democrats to vote yes.
Representative Christine Sinicki of Milwaukee objected to the restrictions placed on the city, but also voted yes. “I am disappointed that the governor agreed to these policies. He along with all of us were forced into a corner on this. There were threats made. You were going to pull Milwaukee out of the deal if we didn’t come to an agreement.”
The bill passed Assembly 68-26 with 21 Democrats and five Republicans voting against it. The measure also received six votes from Democrats as it passed the state Senate 21-15.