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Milwaukee Threatens Sweeping Police Cuts as Republican Lawmakers Prepare Shared Revenue Plan

Top Republicans at the Wisconsin Capitol say they are working on a plan to send more state money to local governments across the state, but the city of Milwaukee this week added a bit of urgency to that work.

On Monday, Milwaukee’s Steering and Rules Committee proposed cutting the city’s entire sixth police district to find the money to pay Milwaukee’s skyrocketing pension payment.

“The gloomiest days are ahead of us when really we should be building for the future,” Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic said.

Milwaukee is also looking at deep cuts to its fire department, as well as other city services like libraries.

The threatened cuts come as Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says he will release a new shared revenue plan on Thursday.

“Hopefully we are on the cusp of an agreement, but the devil is in the details,” Vos told reporters on Tuesday. “I am optimistic that, hopefully, by Thursday we will have a bipartisan plan. But if not, Assembly Republicans are going to lay out their ideas…with the goal of bringing a bill to the floor in the May floor period.”

Gov. Tony Evers has said increasing the amount of money local governments get from the state is one of his top priorities this year.

Vos didn’t offer many specifics as to just what a shared revenue package might include, though he did talk about a new ‘innovation fund’ that would encourage local governments to spend less.

“It would say to municipalities that want to be able to coordinate their services, the state would incentivize that,” Vos added. “And help them be able to offer the same or better services without caring about what the color of the squad car is or the uniform that somebody wears when they respond to a call.”

The leaders of the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, which actually writes the new state budget, on Thursday also said they are planning to increase shared revenue i the new state spending plan.

“We’ll certainly look to make investments in local communities through the shared revenue program, for the first time in a long time,” Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, said. “As far as new money? Obviously there’s a lot of state money in it already, but we want to put new money into it because we recognize that in these inflationary times [local governments] have important roles to play, and need some help too.”

Wisconsin’s shared revenue program is worth about $1 billion. The proposed ‘innovation fund’ would be worth about $100 million.

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