Does the Move Forward MKE Coalition (Milwaukee County, City of Milwaukee, GMC and MMAC) support this legislation?

This is an historic step forward for Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee. We are grateful for this unprecedented partnership with the State and support increased revenue for the County and City. We also understand the bill’s introduction is the start of the legislative process, which will include modifications and continued conversations about key elements of the bill. We look forward to continuing those conversations and refinements. 

What does the proposed legislation do? 

The proposed legislation includes the largest increase in aid for local governments in a generation. It also includes provisions to increase and protect funding for critical public safety services, incentivize innovation and shared services and addresses Milwaukee County’s and the City of Milwaukee’s decades old pension problem through enablement of an additional sales tax for the City (2 percent) and the County (0.375 percent). 

What problem does the proposed legislation attempt to address?

The proposed legislation enables the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County to raise additional revenue to resolve outsized pension burdens and increase resources for pension and critical services including public safety.

Doesn’t the County already have a 0.5 cent sales tax?

The County currently has a 0.5 percent sales tax. This legislation would increase its sales tax ability by 0.375. The 0.5 percent sales tax is the second lowest allowable rate among the 31 states that allow for County sales taxes. While we’ve seen revenue from income taxes and sales taxes grow at the state level, state funding to municipalities and counties across the state has dramatically declined, leading to a need for a new, additional, sustainable funding source. 

Is this legislation final?

No, the bill’s introduction is the start of the legislative process and will likely include continued negotiations and amendments.  

The proposed increased sales taxes are more than Move Forward MKE were originally advocating for. Why?  

The proposed approach would provide a more targeted effort that creates a tax specific to address the specific fiscal needs of the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County respectively. We worked with legislators to ensure stable, ongoing financial health and address the City and County’s pension burdens and increase resources for critical services. 

Does the bill have legislative support?

Yes. The proposed legislation has bipartisan support and was authored by Representatives Tony Kurtz and Jessie Rodriguez and Senator Mary Felzkowski.

Does the bill have the Common Council and County Board of Supervisors’ support?

Leaders of the Move Forward MKE, which include Milwaukee Common Council President José Perez and County Board Chairwoman Marciela Nicholson, are encouraged by this historic step forward but look forward to continued conversations and anticipated amendments. 

Does the bill have support from business, civic and community leaders / groups?

Yes. There is support for this proposal from both the Greater Milwaukee Committee (GMC) and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC). 

Businesses place a high-value on certainty. The leadership of these business organizations believe this proposal gives Milwaukee the certainty to plan for and execute a sound fiscal future that will make greater Milwaukee an even better place to invest capital, create jobs, and attract and retain talent. Giving the cities and county the capacity to invest in their future, alleviating debt and the backlog of critical infrastructure improvements, is good business practice.

How soon before the City and County budgets reach the point of crisis?

The impacts of Milwaukee’s systemic budget issues will be realized in 2024, as federal funding is eliminated and pension obligations continue to grow. By 2025, the City of Milwaukee will be required to eliminate 25 percent of its workforce without additional revenues. By 2027, Milwaukee County will have no local dollars for non-mandated service (including parks, transit, housing, public safety). The impact to our business community  and by extension the region and state  will be dramatic.

How much of the tax would be paid by commuters or visitors? 

It is estimated roughly one third of an additional sales tax would be generated by visitors and commuters from outside Milwaukee County to support services consumed. Comparatively, visitors and commuters would continue to not pay for services consumed if fees, property taxes, or wheel taxes were increased on Milwaukee taxpayers.

Is a sales tax regressive?

Wisconsin exempts a long list of services and products from the sales tax, such as groceries, medicines, medical equipment, services (like an oil change or a haircut), and many other items, which make the tax less regressive. 

What’s more, visitors and commuters will be providing 25-30 percent of the revenue through a new sales tax, further reducing the burden for Milwaukee County residents.

On the flip side, if an additional revenue source is not put in place, the City and County will be forced to further reduce or eliminate services that residents rely on – including transit, parks and public safety services – having a serious negative impact on residents’ quality of life.

How much sales tax will be generated by this increase in the City and County? 

An additional 2 percent sales tax in the City of Milwaukee will generate $186 million. An additional 0.375 percent sales tax in Milwaukee County will generate approximately $73.5 million per year.