Milwaukee’s mayor is predicting bankruptcy within two years, as well as possibly hundreds of layoffs for police officers and firefighters if Wisconsin lawmakers can’t come to terms on a shared revenue deal.
Mayor Cavalier Johnson was one of several people to speak at the Senate’s first hearing on the plan to send as much as $500 million to local governments across the state,
“Without question, my city’s budgetary situation is dire,” Johnson told senators. “My city is on a path to catastrophic budget cuts.”
Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley warned of similar dire circumstances in a weekend op-ed.
“In the County alone, our structural deficit is expected to exceed $100 million by 2028 without any action; under that scenario, we would not have money for local needs,” Crowley wrote. “A projected deficit of this size will inevitably lead to drastic service reductions, which will fall disproportionately upon those who rely on county services the most.”
The Senate’s shared revenue proposal would allow city and county leaders to raise local sales taxes to find the money Johnson and Crowley say they need.
The Assembly’s plan would have voters decide if the local sales taxes should go up.
There is a real fear, however, that Milwaukee and Milwaukee County voters will vote “No” on the tax hike.
Republican Sen. Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma, said that would lead to a disaster in Milwaukee.
“At some point cuts are going to happen [in Milwaukee],” Felzkowski said Tuesday. “They can cut the library by $25 million, 545 police officers, or 209 firemen to offset their pension costs.”
Assembly Republicans approved their version of the shared revenue plan last week. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos then declared the plan final, and said he was done negotiating.
The top Democrat in the Wisconsin Senate, Melissa Agard, D-Madison, said she hopes more hearings and more testimony from leaders like Milwaukee’s mayor will change Vos’ mind.
“My conversations with Senate Majority Leader LeMahieu have been productive and we both recognize the need for a sustainable solution. While Speaker Vos may have drawn a line in the sand, my caucus certainly hasn’t and we will continue to negotiate in good faith for the betterment of our local communities and our state,” Agard said.