Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

State Republican Lawmakers Oppose Barrett’s Budget

Seven Republicans take aim at proposal to reduce police staffing, but don't mention sales tax request.

By - Oct 7th, 2019 04:59 pm
Milwaukee City Hall. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee City Hall. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A joint letter sent to the Milwaukee Common Council by seven Republican lawmakers opposes Mayor Tom Barrett‘s budget proposal to reduce the number of Milwaukee Police Department officers, but does not address Barrett’s pitch for a state-authorized sales tax to fund public safety.

“We were shocked to discover that the proposed budget will reduce the Milwaukee Police Force by three percent, eliminating approximately 60 officers from the department,” reads the letter signed by Representatives Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls), Mike Kuglitsch (R-New Berlin), Chuck Wichgers (R-Muskego), Rob Hutton (B-Brookfield), Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin) and Jim Ott (R-Mequon) as well as Senator Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield).

“Our brave police officers already suffer from a lack of resources and this will only make their life-saving work more difficult,” says the letter.

Brandtjen, Kuglitsch, Hutton, and Kooyenga’s districts each include a small sliver of the City of Milwaukee. None of the letter signers live in Milwaukee.

The letter also repeats the opposition to the budget from the Milwaukee Police Association. The union has established considerable clout with Republicans in the Wisconsin State Legislature. Act 10, the controversial policy enacted by Governor Scott Walker in 2011, exempted public safety employees. Approximately 80 percent of the city’s $70 million pension contribution this year will go towards public safety employees and the amount spent on police salaries is planned to grow next year while the number of officers declines due to the union’s contract with the city.

Barrett has raised the alarm about the city’s growing public safety costs and dwindling state shared revenue for years.

“We have to face a practical reality, that for the fifth consecutive year, the budget for the police department exceeds the entire property tax levy for the city,” said Barrett in his September 24th budget address. “Police and fire costs are the areas where we’ve seen the biggest increases. Next year, the increase in the police and fire budgets are larger than all other city departments combined. We have little control of that because of current state law.”

“We have to have an additional tool to let us help ourselves,” said Barrett about the one percent sales tax effort introduced in early September. That tax would be shared with Milwaukee County and all 19 county municipalities. Each entity would be required to allocate 25 percent towards property tax relief.

Barrett pledged, as reported by Urban Milwaukee on September 9th nearly a month before the state letter, that he would use proceeds from the sales tax to reverse cuts to the police department, invest in equipment for the fire department and fix the city’s aging streets.

But the proposed sales tax, which would require authorization from the state before Milwaukee County residents would vote in a binding referendum on its enactment, was not addressed in the letter.

Beyond the growing cost of public safety, the city faces declining state support in the form of returned income and sales tax dollars. A city report notes that if the city received its 2003 allotment of shared revenue adjusted for inflation it would have received $333.9 million in 2018; instead it received $228.2 million, an effective annual loss of $105.7 million. Over the same time, annual state spending has increased by $7 billion.

The proposed cut does not include any layoffs. “We are not laying any officers off,” said Barrett of the service reduction. Similar to a 2018 cut, the budget would reduce sworn strength through not replacing retirees.

In his budget address, Barrett praised the work of city employees and noted that the number of homicides, not-fatal shootings and robberies are down.

Barrett’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the letter.

The proposed 2020 Milwaukee Police Department is approximately $300 million. The Common Council began its budget review process last week and will pass a final budget in November.

Read the letter

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Categories: City Hall, Politics

7 thoughts on “City Hall: State Republican Lawmakers Oppose Barrett’s Budget”

  1. mkeumkenews09 says:

    Where does Milwaukee rank in number of police officers per capita per FBI statistics compared to the 50 or 100 largest U.S. cities?

  2. JMcD says:

    And still, they block the ability of the city and/or county to raise sales tax. And, we continue to send tax more dollars to the state and get a smaller percentage back. Lip service for local control!

  3. Jhenry1131 says:


  4. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    Worth noting- NOT ONE of the GOPs signing that letter live in Milwaukee County, and most dont even have one inch of their districts of the City.

    They can either sign onto the sales tax, add more state aids for cops, or SHUT UP about the cuts that follow. Those are the choices.

    Oh, and if you care about gun violence so much, then you’ll gladly sign onto gun control measures that Milwaukee cops have asked for for years, right WisGOPs?

  5. Patricia Jursik says:

    Rep. Sanfelippo and his ilk want it both ways: As the representatives at the State, they reduce shared revenue for local municipal government but then want to tell Milwaukee how many police they should have with reduced funding. What Sanfelippo doesn’t get, is the citizens of Milwaukee are represented by locally elected aldermen who must represent a very diverse city population, not the mostly white population Sanfelippo represents. Of course Act 10, created this mess and the GOP made a pact with the devil in allowing some unions to have the whole smorgasbord of pay and benefits while teachers, city workers and others must cow-tow to what the state allows. Sorry, Joe, you created this mess, leave the local budget out of your devil-pact dictates.

  6. blurondo says:

    Ok, you shocked Republicans, let’s negotiate.
    You repeal the law that allows city of Milwaukee employees to live outside of the city and we’ ll consider your concerns.
    Racism is the root of everything.

  7. mkeumkenews09 says:

    Is it possible to identify where Milwaukee ranks, in number of police officers per capita, per FBI statistics, compared to the 50 or 100 largest U.S. cities? I have struggled to determine that.

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