Act 12 - Milwaukee Under Attack from State GOP

Act 12 - Milwaukee Under Attack from State GOP

On July 6, elected alderpeople of the Milwaukee Common Council hosted a town hall regarding a city sales tax increase and other provisions around Wisconsin Act 12. Members of the Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression participated in the town hall and distributed general information about Act 12 to community members. Alderpeople from the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 9th, and 15th Districts were present.

The city organized the event to gauge opinion on the potential of a 2% city sales tax increase. An opportunity to implement this sales tax comes from last month's bipartisan Shared Revenue bill (now law, known as Act 12), but the revenue it generates can only be used to pay for the fire and police departments pensions.

Moreover, Act 12 requires the following: having two of the Fire and Police Commission’s (FPC) members be selected by fire and police union members, stripping policy-creating power of the FPC, reinstating cops in public schools, keeping a minimum amount of sworn police officers on duty (which would be required to increase from the current total), and no usage of tax revenue to fund diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in the city.

Some alderpeople have expressed staunch disagreement with these provisions and are considering a lawsuit against the state. Alderwoman Milele Coggs opened the financial presentation with comments on how negotiators stonewalled the Milwaukee Common Council input on the sales tax proposal. Budget Director Nik Kovac gave a brief presentation on the options forward. Topics outlined in the presentation included a history of the city budget, projected outcomes for future years, and conditions for the sales tax. Intermittently the alderpeople present spoke to arguments on both sides for the Act 12 sales tax.

The overwhelming input of community members that gave comments suggested the city shouldn’t have to take up the sales tax. Citizens were frustrated, and rightly so, that the city’s biggest stream of revenue would be burdened upon them.

“The sales tax is a Band-Aid on the harm Act 12 has caused Milwaukee, and it will not stop the bleeding for our city,” said Aurelia Ceja, co-chair of the Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (MAARPR).

They and other MAARPR members spoke to the need for revenue streams without these other conditions. Paris Miller, propaganda chair of the Milwaukee Alliance, spoke to the need for city officials to not repeat the same errors in city budget planning that created Milwaukee’s insolvency, such as giving the Milwaukee Police Department an estimated $300 million, a number which continues to climb yearly.

The Milwaukee Common Council will meet on July 11 to vote on the sales tax proposal. 10 of the 15 council members are needed to vote in favor for the proposal to pass. A vote in favor may please the police department, fire department, and city employees who rely heavily on the city’s pension fund. A vote in favor will also risk alienating and angering community members who cannot afford the sales tax and who had little to any participation in negotiations. Members of the Milwaukee Alliance will attend this meeting and continue to voice the community’s dissatisfaction with this proposal.