The legislature’s Join Finance Committee held its only Milwaukee-area budget public hearing on Wednesday in Oak Creek.
And while I had to leave the packed event before I could present them in person, I shared these remarks with the committee. From them …
The first few months of divided government have further polarized a polarized state, and instead of lawmakers working to unite us, we get the opposite. I fear the budget process will be another example of that.
But I have hope.
I have hope that you, the Joint Finance Committee, your colleagues and the governor will ultimately put their partisan differences aside starting with the budget process … coming together around common sense ideas that move Wisconsin forward and improve the lives of the people who live here – the millions who call our cities, villages and towns home.
I represent 21,000 of those people. And I stand before you today asking for your help in making our jobs a little easier, for your help in making sure we can continue to deliver our services in the manner and at the level our residents have come to expect of us.
Police, fire, paramedics, public health, our library and senior center, garbage pickup, and, yes, snowplowing – even on an April day like this – we deliver these on the front lines of government every day. We are the government people see most often, and what they rely on most.
Levy limits make that job increasingly difficult.
You will hear a lot of suggestions today and throughout these hearings, so I will make mine short and sweet: Deliver common-sense levy limit reform in this budget.
Keep alive the proposals Governor Evers has put forth, especially the one to allow communities to increase their levy from the prior year by 2% or by net new construction, whichever is greater. That small change alone would impact millions of residents of this state for the better, as it will allow us to more adequately fund the services they need and use every day or week.
Here is South Milwaukee’s story, in summary …
For 11 straight years, our “net new construction” figure – used to calculate how much we can increase our base levy, our largest source of revenue – has measured less than 1%. For 2019, it was 0.3%, meaning we were only able to increase our levy by approximately $22,000.
$22,000. On a $19 million budget. And it was worse in previous years.
This is not sustainable. Costs go up, and we’re not allowed to reflect that in our budgets because the state has hamstrung us on revenue. And what if we want to give our people a raise, or if we want to add services? What do we do then?
I’ll tell you one thing we can’t do: Cut fat. We did that long ago. Cuts now are cuts to people, and services. The days of Cadillac benefits are long gone too. We certainly seek ways to do things better through efficiencies and partnerships, but those only go so far.
South Milwaukee went to referendum in 2017, to ensure we can adequately fund our paramedic program and add two new police officers. It passed 2-to-1. While that allowed us to increase our levy and helped solve that problem, this is no way to fund a government. “One-off” solutions like this don’t solve the problem.
You can help solve the problem, with levy limit reform.
And don’t do it for us. Do it for the hundreds of communities like us across the state, big and small, blue and red, urban and rural, rich and poor, in every legislative district, including yours.
There’s a lot of data here, but I’ll offer this point from the Wisconsin Policy Forum: “During 2012-16, only 62 of nearly 600 cities and villages averaged new construction rates of 2% per year or more, while 186 averaged 0.5% or less.”
186 at 0.5% or less. And for many like us, this has been the case for a decade. We are not alone in doing more with less, literally.
Please fix this in the next state budget.
I’m not asking for more shared revenue or other state aids, although there is a strong case for that as well. Others will make that case. Today, I’m simply asking you to give us the tools and funding flexibility we need to do our jobs at the local level.
Enact common sense levy limit reform and, in doing so, make a stand for local government and for local control — and for the residents we serve, your constituents.
Welcome Summer with One of the First Food Truck Events in 2019
Food Truck Sunday is coming on Sunday, May 19 at South Milwaukee’s Downtown Market, 11th & Milwaukee Avenues. The trucks start serving at noon and stay until 4 p.m. so there’s time to enjoy lunch, meet friends and take home dinner for later.
Returning food trucks include All About Tacos, Cupcake-A-Rhee, Little Havana Express, Marco Polo, The Rolling Cones, and Timber’s BBQ.
All About Tacos has almost every taco combination you can imagine and donates a portion of their profits to breast cancer research.
Cupcake-A-Rhee will make you drool with their mouth-watering selection of cupcakes.
Little Havana Express claims some of the most “authentic” Cuban sandwiches in Milwaukee with their shredded beef and chicken breast sandwiches and Havana pork plates.
Marco Polo serves crispy chicken with authentic international sauces.
The Rolling Cones offers unique rolled bread cones stuffed with your choice of meat and vegetarian fillings.
Timber’s BBQ has some of Milwaukee’s finest BBQ, smoking up wings, brisket, ribs and more with a distinct flair that sets it apart from the competition.
New this time around are A & A Cafe, My Funnel Truck, Pinâ Mexican Eats, Rollin Smoke, and Yogi’s Pud’n Bowltique.
A & A Cafe features gourmet sandwiches, loaded homemade chips, and salads.
My Funnel Truck is the place to get the “perfect funnel cake” and ice cream creations.
Pinâ Mexican Eats, a spin off from the Pineapple Cafe, will make their debut with authentic tacos, burritos, nachos, and quesadillas.
Rollin Smoke puts a new twist on barbecue with BBQ nachos, smoked Italian beef, BBQ mac & cheese, smoked cheesy potatoes, smoked chocolate mousse and fatties – bacon-wrapped sausages stuffed with all different things then sliced and served as a sandwich.
Last, but not least, Yogi’s Pud’n Bowltique has people raving about her amazingly delicious, decadent, rich, and completely satisfying pudding flavors are.
The family-friendly event offers live music by acoustic guitarist Rohn Eric Larson and lots of seating at shaded picnic tables. Parking and admission are free.
Food Truck Sunday is hosted by the Rotary Club of Mitchell Field with support from Educators Credit Union. Proceeds from the sale of beverages go back to the South Shore communities of Milwaukee County via grants to non-profits and college scholarships for students.
For more information on Food Truck Sunday, visit facebook.com/southmilwaukeefoodtruck or rcomf.org.
South Shore Soup: 4 p.m. on April 28 at Milwaukee Gourmet House, 800 Milwaukee Ave. in South Milwaukee.
South Shore Soup is a micro-granting soup dinner supporting creative projects in Cudahy, St. Francis, and South Milwaukee; the communities that make up the South Shore Chamber. This innovative micro-granting event has been done throughout the Country and in Milwaukee.
Please email email@example.com for an application.
Deadline to Submit Application: Sunday, April 21, 2019. Winners will be contacted on April 22, 2019.
How to attend: For a donation of $10 for adults (children 12 and under are free), attendees receive a variety of hearty soup, salad, bread, desert and they VOTE for a grantee. Pr-registration is recommended to get a count for the food.
How it works: At the Soup dinner you hear from four presentations ranging from art, urban agriculture, social entrepreneurs, education, technology and more in hopes the attendees will “grant” them the proceeds from the soup dinner for their cause.
What is the process: Each presenter has four minutes to share their idea and answer four questions from the audience. At the event, attendees eat, talk, share resources, enjoy and vote on the project they think most benefits the cities most. At the end of the night we count the ballots and the winner goes home with all the attendee registration money raised to carry out their project.
Winners come back to a future Soup dinner to report their projects progress.
Do you have a project you would like to support? Do you know a group that would like to sign up? Have them fill out an application. Questions email Trish Wimer at firstname.lastname@example.org
Grant Park at sunrise on Feb. 19, 2019. Thanks, Kevin Petejan, for the the beautiful shot. Do you have a photo you’d like to share on the blog? Send it along.
A Word About Comments
I want this blog to be an open, honest and free exchange of ideas, and I think it delivers on that promise everyday -- and has since I launched it in 2009. That said, there are exceptions to this rule.
I will not publish comments that offer personal attacks, or are racist, profane, or otherwise objectionable. I also won't publish comments that make unsubstantiated accusations.
Keep in mind that I rarely veto comments. More than 5,000 comments have been made on this blog since I launched it, and I've vetoed a tiny percentage of them. I will always err on the side of publishing a viewpoint, even (especially) if I don't agree with it. Sometimes however, people cross a line. That's when I step in.
I appreciate your understanding and support on this.