‘Fair Deal’ Sales Tax Referendum Blocked From April Ballot
But there's still a chance for the November ballot.
Milwaukee County leaders were hoping to ask voters in April to increase the local sales tax by 1 percent in exchange for property tax relief.
Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill last fall that would allow Milwaukee County municipalities to put a binding referendum on their ballots asking for the increase. But the bill is stalled and did not meet the deadline to be put on the April 7 ballot.
“If it were to pass this session, I believe it could appear on the November ballot,” Goyke said, adding he’s hopeful there will be a public hearing this spring.
Municipalities can not increase a tax or go to referendum to do so without approval from the state. Gaining approval from the Republican-controlled Legislature could be an uphill battle. According to the Wisconsin Policy Forum, Wisconsin ranks seventh in the nation and first in the Midwest for its reliance on property taxes for funding municipalities.
Under the proposed bill, Milwaukee County could ask voters to approve a 1 percent sales tax increase with a referendum. The bill requires 25 percent of the revenue from the additional tax be used to provide residential property tax relief, divided evenly between county and municipal property.
Seven percent of the revenue must be used for public health infrastructure projects and the remaining 68 percent of the revenue has to be used for operational and capital expenses in the county and municipalities.
Milwaukee County officials launched the Fair Deal Workgroup in 2018 to explore new revenue options to address the structural deficit. The proposal to raising the sales tax was widely praised in Milwaukee County by Democrats, Republicans and local business organizations.
Goyke said asking voters to support the increase in April would have been ideal because the Democratic National Convention will be in Milwaukee in July — bringing a major influx of spending to Milwaukee County.
Milwaukee County supervisors could have put a nonbinding referendum on their April ballot, but it would not have counted.
Barrett said the money would have also been used to purchase an emergency vehicle for the fire department, road paving and for lead remediation.
“The need is still there, it’s a tremendous, tremendous need and it’s not going to go away,” Barrett said. “Anybody, and everybody who has looked at this in a serious way recognizes how much of a straitjacket the city is in right now. We need more flexibility and that’s why we are looking for this new partnership with the state.”
Listen to the WPR report here.
Milwaukee County Sales Tax Referendum Not On April Ballot was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.