State News

Bill aims to relieve Milwaukee’s financial pressure by increasing county sales tax

Representatives and leaders hold press conference urging county residents and the Legislature to consider imposing a one percent sales tax increase to support public services.

Democratic representatives proposed legislation to increase Milwaukee County’s sales tax by one percent in order to address financial challenges faced by public service institutions. 

Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, joined with Sen. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee, to draft legislation to see this initiative through. The “Move Forward Milwaukee Initiative” acknowledges the economic role that Milwaukee holds for the state, and intends to increase the county’s revenue.

“This bill holds the entire rest of the state of Wisconsin harmless,” Goyke said. “No one loses any funding for their schools or for health care, or transportation infrastructure outside of Milwaukee County. It is only to our benefit.”

Supported by leaders from 19 municipalities, the tax increase is expected to bring in $160 million of annual revenue, 25 percent of which would be funded by visitors and out-of-county shoppers. 

The two representatives believe that the “stagnant” state sales tax has negatively impacted property taxes, and hope this shift will create a better balance to support services like the fire department and municipal buildings. 

“Our local governments need the opportunity to realize a portion of the return on investment they've made in building strong communities,” Goyke said. “This legislation empowers the people of Milwaukee County to decide their future by shifting away from an over reliance on property taxes and uniting communities throughout the County by capturing the benefit of our shared economic success.”

If rolled out, the total sales tax in Milwaukee County would rise to 6.5 percent, which is nationally low in comparison to cities like Chicago and Minneapolis, which have taxes at 10.5 and 8 percent respectively. 

“We are asking the Legislature to allow the residents of Milwaukee county to decide whether or not we want to have a sales tax,” Mayor Tom Barrett said in a press conference referencing the upcoming referendum. 

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