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Could a 1% sales tax fix Milwaukee County's budget woes?

County Executive David Crowley hopes to add 1 percent to the county sales tax because they simply have too much to pay for.
Posted at 6:22 PM, Sep 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-22 19:22:36-04

MILWAUKEE -- A possible solution to Milwaukee County's $1 billion problem: add 1 percent to Milwaukee County's sales tax.

County Executive David Crowley reminds us out of the current 5.5 percent sales tax, Milwaukee County is immediately allocated 0.5 percent. The rest goes to the entire state. Crowley hopes to add 1 percent to the county sales tax because they simply have too much to pay for.

Earlier this month, Crowley told us if you added up just the maintenance that has been put off for decades to our County-owned parks and buildings, it would total $1 billion.

Crowley promised a big push in 2023 to have our state legislature take up the idea of increasing Milwaukee County's sales tax by 1 percent, "That would generate $160 million across Milwaukee County."


"We're gonna try to use a third of that to buy down property taxes for everyone," said Crowley. His office also shared with us: "Taxpayers with a home valued at $150,000 would receive an average 14 percent reduction (from $539 to $462)."

Another third would go towards the county budget and the final third to the City of Milwaukee.

Crowley hopes the state legislature gives them the green light, and voters would have a final say in a referendum. If passed, Milwaukee County's sales tax would go up to 6.5 percent.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says not so fast.

"We haven't been able to see them use the tax dollars that are already generating very wisely," he said. "We've seen consistently in Milwaukee the decrease in police and public services."

Milwaukee Alderman Bob Bauman says there has been a push to increase the county sales tax for years.

"It is an anti-Milwaukee bias that exists among the republican legislature," he said. "They just don't want Milwaukee to prosper."

"We are not anti-Milwaukee, but we are against what Milwaukee has not been doing, and that's protecting its citizens and investing its dollars wisely," said Vos.

Speaker Vos told us he might look at the proposal again, so long as local leaders share exactly what those tax dollars would pay for. In the past, it was to help fund dwindling pensions. Now, it is deferred maintenance.

It is an idea that still needs a lot of ironing out that would affect the things we love and how we pay for them for years to come.

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