Time to use 0.5 percent sales tax in Milwaukee for arts, museums and parks?

Posted at 3:40 PM, Jan 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-31 08:59:25-05

Is it time to use a sales tax for cultural assets in Milwaukee?

The Milwaukee Business Journal recently held a forum with area leaders in the business sector to discuss the idea of such a thing.

The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce has proposed a 0.5 percent sales tax for arts, parks and other cultural institutions.

"MMAC is exploring the option of including an increment in the sales tax which would require state approval to run a referendum here," said MMAC President Tim Sheehy.

He cites "the connection between investing in quality of life assets like our culture, arts and parks, and the economic growth in this community" as a major reason to potentially build a new tax in the county.

"There are hundreds of millions of dollars in deferred maintenance. It's as much about taking care of the parks and putting some of these facilities into good shape as it is investing in the future."

He says there should be particular constraints on such a tax, including time and other parameters.

"We'd want to make sure it's for a limited period of time, there's no debt so we could end this in a certain time frame, that it's used for capital and projects only, that it's very transparent to the public that we show the results, and I think most importantly, it's an opportunity for Milwaukee to control its own destiny."

To get that fact across, however, Sheehy says a need for a public campaign to help explain the message for why it's a critical piece of the cultural puzzle.

"We've got to get the community in Milwaukee to understand the need. We have to get local leadership here on one page," he said.

"We have to go to Madison in the same car and ask the legislature to run a referendum here in Milwaukee. There's a lot of work we need to put behind this, but it's worth exploring and pursuing given the dire state of some of our cultural assets."

Listen to the full conversation, including Sheehy's thoughts on a new convention center, in your Soundcloud player above.

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