Saturday, June 10, 2023

We got deals on shared revenue and K-12! They're not the best deals, but hey!

One day after Republicans in the Legislature threatened to hold up action on reforming the state's outdated shared revenue system, and on the state budget as a whole, we apparently have ourselves a deal on both?

So what's the big change to the shared revenue plan?
*Milwaukee County and the city would be allowed to increase sales taxes through two-thirds votes by the County Board and Common Council rather than going to referendum. That would allow the county to add 0.4 percent to its current sales tax of 0.5 percent while creating a new city sales tax of 2 percent.

*the deal would set a new floor of a 20 percent boost in shared revenue payments for municipalities. That floor wouldn’t apply to Madison or Milwaukee. Madison is in line for a boost above the proposed floor anyway, while Republicans have previously said it wouldn’t apply to Milwaukee because it can raise additional revenue through the sales tax. The additional aid would come through dedicating one penny of the state’s 5-cent sales tax to shared revenue.
The big change is that the only votes for the sales tax in Milwaukee would be by the County Board and Common Council (respectively).

But I also wanted to see what conditions were still tied in to Milwaukee's sales tax, and the City in general. And according to Urban Milwaukee's summary of the bill, most of the strings are still attached.
A release from Republican legislative leaders says the city may not use the new money on “frivolous things such as street cars and woke diversity and equity initiatives.” Any new spending would require a two-thirds vote of the Common Council or County Board.

The Milwaukee Police Department would be required to maintain a sworn strength of 1,725, with 175 of those being detectives. The current average sworn strength in the 2023 budget is 1,640. The Milwaukee Fire Department would need to be staffed with a minimum number of firefighters.

The Milwaukee Fire & Police Commission’s authority would be gutted as part of the proposal. “Even the city admitted they had the most powerful police and fire commission in the country,” said Kurtz. Policy-making power will now be handed to the police and fire chiefs instead of the appointed board. The commission, which would retain the authority to hire and fire the chiefs, would also need to add two members, one each from lists provided the rank-and-file police and fire unions. The mayor currently has the authority to appoint up to nine members.

The bill blocks the city from using “moneys raised by levying taxes” for developing, operating or maintaining the streetcar system. The city has used tax incremental financing districts as a local match for a federal grant to build the system. It relies on parking revenue and sponsorships to operate the system. The bill would not impact the lakefront line extension.

Twenty-five MPD officers would need to be placed at Milwaukee Public Schools as part of the bill. The school board had voted to remove officers in 2020 at advocates’ request but continues to employ security personnel and officers routinely visit schools.
"The GOP is the party of local control"? MY A$$. Just tie the sales tax to police, fire, and maybe roads/EMS, and call it a day.

But beggars can't be choosers and I don't think the conditions should be a reason for Evers to veto the bill. And I like the reform where future City and County employees end up in the statewide Wisconsin Retirement System instead of having Milwaukee be the only community with its own standalone pension system. I don't see the change as a threat to my future benefits from the fully-funded WRS, and even if it causes a minor change in what I get, I'm adult enough to see that it is a good trade vs having our state's largest city and tourist destination get wrecked.

As for the K-12 part, it looks like we'll see the state cost for vouchers continue the rise that we've seen throughout the 12-year Age of Fitzwalkerstan.

According to WisPolitics, the tradeoff Evers made with Legislative GOPs allows for more funds into K-12 public schools.
*more than $1 billion in new money for schools between state aid and property taxes. The package would increase the revenue limit by $325 per pupil in the first year of the budget and another $325 in the second year.

*the low revenue ceiling would increase $1,000 to $11,000 per student. That cap affects districts that were locked into a lower spending limit compared to other districts in the mid-1990s when those restrictions were first put in place.
The increase in money per student for vouchers is likely related to those higher revenue limits (which is how it usually works out). But it would be quite a jump.
*for those in kindergarten through eighth grade in the choice program, the voucher would increase to $9,500 per student, up from $8,399. For high school students, it would go to $12,000 from $9,045.
That seems like a much larger per-student increase than public schools are going get, which seems like quite the subsidy to the voucher schools to me. And I also want to see if the funding flaw for vouchers continues, where the local public school gets state aid taken away from it if a local student takes a voucher, even if the kid never attended a day of public school.

But I'll have to wait until next week's Joint Finance Committee meeting to see how this all works together, and to see how much of the $1 billion in extra public school funding is split between state aid + property taxes. But it's also what you get when you have a split Legislature, and especially a gerrymandered one like ours where a lot of GOPs care more about making sure they Vos sends the Dirty DeVos dollars their way than they do in improving their community's schools.

For both these bills, I'll look to see if there is more digging into the numbers and details to get a better idea of how this shakes out. And while it leaves things better than they were, which likely makes it acceptable enough, there's also a lot of things that can be improved. Shrug and take it for now, and then wait for new maps and new opportunities to improve the situation for the future.

No comments:

Post a Comment