By LaKeshia Myers
While sitting in the assembly chamber last week, my colleagues and I debated for over nine hours on the Republican-crafted biennial budget. While both sides debated ad nauseum the many details of the bill, it occurred to me that the Republican budget not only fell short in fostering the goals of Governor Tony Evers, it was also a continuum of policy that shafts Milwaukee County.
The facts speak for themselves: the city of Milwaukee is the economic engine of Wisconsin. According to a 2015 Department of Revenue report, Milwaukee residents and businesses, sent more than $1.37 billion in revenue to Madison in 2015 from all income, sales, utility and other taxes, while the city received only $912 million in shared revenue, about a 66 percent return.
Milwaukee County got even less back on a percentage basis, sending $2.5 billion to Madison and getting back $1.45 billion, or 57.49 percent (Wisconsin Department of Revenue, 2015). This stagnant rate of return for both the city and county directly affect tangible goods and services used by residents. This was the impetus for County Executive Chris Abele’s 2017 proposal of a $60-wheel tax (voters eventually agreed to a $30-wheel tax), as well as increases to zoo admission and property taxes. Also, at stake are the costs associated with public safety in the city, while Republicans took away collective bargaining rights for most unionized workers, this restriction does not apply to firefighter or police.
The salaries, healthcare costs, and legal settlements associated with this population are a considerable portion of the city’s budget.
Another significant shortfall of the Republican-crafted budget was the fact that the GOP did not honor their promise of funding education at two-thirds operational cost. Republicans in recent months said they planned to have the state cover two-thirds of the costs for schools, but the nonpartisan Legislative
Fiscal Bureau found the GOP budget would cover about 65% of costs for next school year.
Not fully funding education at two-thirds, refusing to expanding Medicaid, and not increasing special education funding to 60 percent (an influx of $600 million) will still keep public schools working with limited budgets and lacking necessary resources needed to implement the (federally mandated) Individualized Education Plans (IEP) of students with disabilities.
The Republicans exemplify the colloquialism admonishing those who “throw rocks and hide their hands” —meaning you cause a problem and then act like you had nothing to do with it. Time and time again, the GOP expects Wisconsin residents to pat them on the back for minimally increasing funding to programs they’ve either gutted or cut altogether.
But just as Johnny Cash said, “well you may throw your rock and hide your hand, workin’ in the dark against your fellow man, but as sure as God made black and white, what’s down in the dark will come to light.” I can only hope that the people of Wisconsin take Republicans to task and make their voices heard at the ballot box. Then and only then will they be made to come to the light.