If Milwaukee wants to raise its sales tax, it’s going to have to convince voters it’s the right thing to do.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos was on UPFRONT over the weekend and said there’s no appetite among Republicans at the Wisconsin Capitol to remove the referendum requirement for a Milwaukee and Milwaukee County sales tax increase from the new shared revenue proposal.
“I guess if there’s a counter-proposal, I’m always willing to take a look at it, but that’s certainly not where we are today,” Vos said.
Milwaukee’s mayor on Friday expressed a bit of frustration with the requirement that Milwaukee and Milwaukee County get voter approval before raising taxes.
“That’s why I said there are some disagreements. And some areas where there is still an opportunity to work on this,” Mayor Cavalier Johnson said.
Republican leaders at the Statehouse have said for months that local governments should go to local voters in order to raise taxes.
Vos, on UPFRONT, said that’s how most communities in Wisconsin get the things they need.
“That’s no different than what it is for most municipalities around the state when they go and ask permission to increase their levy for police or try to build a new school,” Vos said.
He did, however, acknowledge that the vote could fail.
“It’s certainly a possibility, which would be catastrophic for the city,” Vos said.
Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley was also on UPFRONT over the weekend.
He said if there is going to have to be a vote to raise taxes in Milwaukee County, he’d like to see it happen as soon as possible.
“It’s going to take a lot of education, as far as where we are and what we’ve done to help lower many of the costs that we have, but also what we need moving forward,” Crowley said. “We have to put it on the ballot rather quickly. At the end of the day, we want to make sure we can start collecting these revenues as quickly as possible.”
If voters would approve, the city of Milwaukee would be able to increase its sales tax up to 2%. Milwaukee County would be able to add 0.375% to its sales tax.
The Milwaukee and Milwaukee County taxes are just part of a half-billion dollar proposal to send more state money to local governments across Wisconsin.
Vos said the legislation on the plan, which will include more specifics, should be finalized sometime this week.