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Democrats and Republicans appear ready to change local government revenue sharing

Published on: 01/05/2023


(WLUK) -- For years, local government officials have been asking state lawmakers for more financial help, but it appears both sides are now ready to find a solution.

“We need generational, transformative improvements as to how we invest in our local counties and keep them safe,” said Democratic Gov. Tony Evers during his inauguration address on Tuesday.

Gov. Tony Evers met with the mayors of Wisconsin's five largest cities behind closed doors for about an hour Jan. 4, 2023. (WLUK)

The day after being sworn in for his second term, Evers had a one-hour meeting with the mayors of Wisconsin's five largest cities to talk about how the state can get local governments more money.

“It was a really productive conversation,” said Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich.

Genrich says every municipality in the state is overly reliant on property taxes.

“That additional state support, at a higher level, will really be kind of game changing for us,” said Genrich.

The amount the state shares with local governments was reduced by more than 6% in 2012 and has remained flat ever since.

“It creates all the incentive in the world for municipalities to go into debt,” said Brian Johnson, vice president of Green Bay’s city council. “We all know that isn't a sustainable way to financially manage our resources.”

Johnson says he plans to introduce a resolution for Green Bay to ask state lawmakers to use part of the record $6.6 billion surplus to help local governments fund vital needs like roads and law enforcement. He hopes a long-term fix for the shared revenue program can also be reached.

Evers has previously said he'll include a 4% increase to the shared revenue program each of the next two years, generating an additional $91 million. However, Genrich told FOX 11 he wasn't sure what Evers would specifically propose after meeting with him on the subject.

But Republican leaders have floated replacing the shared revenue program by giving local governments 1% of state sales tax revenue.

“We're talking $1.4 to $1.5 billion versus a $900 million amount that is currently being sent in that direction,” said State. Rep. David Steffen, R-Howard.

Steffen says this issue was top priority in a four-hour Republican State Assembly Caucus on Wednesday.

He says there are no specific solutions yet, but hopes the governor will include smaller communities in the conversation.

“The big five municipalities, which are all led by very Democrat, liberal, leaders tend to have higher focus on spending their money on climate change and diversity coordinators, and the smaller communities are more geared towards making sure the roads get plowed and roads are fixed and direct law enforcement,” said Steffen.

“We've added seven additional police officers within these last four budgets,” said Genrich. “We've added firefighters as well. So, we're doing absolutely everything that we can and we're just asking the state to share the burden with us.”

Evers' solution is expected to be part of his budget proposal, which will be revealed on February 15th. Republicans are expected to counter after seeing his plan.

Republicans have said any additional money for local governments will carry some sort of accountability measure to make sure the money is being used on top needs, including law enforcement and roads.

According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, shared revenue is currently less than 5% of the state's general fund.

Author :Ben Krumholz, FOX 11 News

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