Tuesday, February 14, 2017

GOPs at Capitol flat-out stealing from Milwaukee

A common meme in on AM WisGOP radio is that the City of Milwaukee is a giant vacuum that sucks up money from the rest of the state, and that the (Dem-voting, majority-minority) city is a declining hellhole that doesn’t deserve added investment. This sounds nice to the mediocre white people that tune in hear that statement, as it makes them feel a little better about the nowhere life that they lead.

But there’s a big problem with that WisGOP meme of “Milwaukee is a taker.” It’s not true. Bruce Murphy in Urban Milwaukee reports on a study done by City officials using data from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, and it shows that while that talk(ing) show point may have had some legitimacy at the height of the Great Recession, it is dead wrong 8 years later. In fact, the City of Milwaukee lost almost $500 million dollars to the Capitol compared to what it took back from Madison 2 years ago.
…[A]s recently as 2009, when the city was getting more total state aid than taxes it sent to Madison: Milwaukee was getting $1.07 from the state for every dollar in taxes it paid. But by 2011 the city was a net contributor to the state and that net outflow has increased every year until by 2015 the city was paying nearly $1.4 billion in total taxes to the state and getting back just over $912 million in state aid. That’s a return of just 66 cents from the state for every dollar in taxes paid. If that trend continues, and all signs suggest it will, that figure will drop further in 2016 and even further in 2017….

The state has been reducing shared revenue to the city for many years, going back to the mid-1990s, as I have reported, and that has continued under Walker. Meanwhile, Walker and the Republican legislature have also watered down the equalization formula in state school aid that had long awarded proportionately more money to districts with more poor students, with the result that Milwaukee gets an ever smaller portion of the state educational pie.
Sure, some of this could be muddied because of funds which go to Milwaukee County and are mostly used in the City of Milwaukee (Murphy’s report doesn’t go into detail on the numbers) , but at the same time, a sizable amount of suburban spending (and suburban existence) is based on having the amenities of a city like Milwaukee nearby, so it may be a wash anyway.

Can't get this in New Berlin, can ya?

The reason the City is so reliant on the state to send back the money the City generates is because of a 100-year-old state law that placed much of the power to distribute funds into the hands of politicians at the Capitol. Unfortunately, Murphy notes that politicians at the Capitol have been refusing to keep up their end of the bargain in helping the state’s largest city.
This could be a good news story except the city is prevented from benefitting from its own success, because under state law it cannot levy its own sales tax or income tax. “The revenue sources that are growing the most from our economy, the income and sales taxes, we are shut out from,” [Milwaukee Mayor Tom] Barrett laments.

Most cities in America have the ability to levy a sales or income or gas tax. Not cities in Wisconsin. That law goes back to 1911, when Wisconsin created the first state income tax in America. The legislature also wrote a law preventing cities from levying an income tax — to prevent some cities from gaining an advantage over others. Instead, the legislature committed to returning a significant portion of the state income tax revenue to cities through state shared aid.

But the legislature began retreating on that century-old grand bargain in the 1990s. Result: In 1995, 53 percent of Milwaukee’s general purpose budget was paid for by shared revenue, but that dropped to just 39 percent by 2012. Today, it’s down to 36 percent.
So that means the City has to find other methods to come up with the funding to fix its roads and to staff its police department, such as its $20 wheel tax, parking costs, license fees, and other homeowner fees tacked onto the property tax.

Suburba-GOPs like to sneer about those user fees that the City has to put in, as some kind of proof of the inferiority of Milwaukee. But there’s an easy solution to that situation doesn’t require a cent of extra state spending going to the Brew City, which is to LET MILWAUKEE RAISE ITS OWN REVENUES. Allow the City to have a local sales and/or income tax, and while local residents and visitors might pay a slight bit more, it might reduce the need for all those fees that are paid, while paving the way for better services and a higher quality of life inside the city. The economu improves in the area, more people want to live in southeastern Wisconsin, and everyone wins.

But then that would require those folks in the 262 to demand more out of their elected officials and have to step up and improve their own lot in life instead of kicking at “those people” in MKE. And that’s an effort far too few people in the cultural cesspool of the burbs want to make, so instead they keep beating up on the state's best economic engine, and we get stats like this one from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
From December 2015 to December 2016, nonfarm employment rose in 49 of the 51 metropolitan areas with a 2010 Census population of 1 million or more, and fell in Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, Wisconsin (−0.5 percent), and Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, Virginia-North Carolina (−0.4 percent).
That’s a loss of 4,700 jobs in the Milwaukee metro area over the last year, and that’s not confined to the City. It is the logical outcome when you have a state where the Governor and Legislature are run by suburban-based GOPs who have decided that the political pose of hammering on the big city is the best way to stay in power, more than truly making Wisconsin “open for business.”

You know things are going when even right-wing oligarch and MMAC President Tim Sheehy admits in Murphy's article that “We are all in this together,” and claims to want more regional cooperation in southeast Wisconsin. Of course, if he really means it, then why is he and other business oligarchs at WMC continuing to back these anti-urban, regressive GOP politicians? Put up or shut up, Timmy.

Oh that’s right, Tim Sheehy and the rest of the backwards Milwaukee business community are more concerned with still being able to show up at the exclusive events at the Pfister and the Milwaukee Athletic Club instead of demanding the regional teamwork and investment in quality of life improvements that would truly take Milwaukee to the next level as a place where talent chooses to locate. And there’s no reason to think this losing attitude will change as long as the WisGOPs and the welfare-sucking suburbs remain in control of state government, and the oligarchs continue to get their free rides off of their puppets.

Which is why they all must be booted out of power, and why MILWAUKEE MUST BE FREED to raise the funding that they have earned.

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