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I am an Ultra-Conservative, Alpha-Male, True Authentic Leader, Type "C" Personality, who is very active in my community; whether it is donating time, clothes or money for Project Concern or going to Common Council meetings and voicing my opinions. As a blogger, I intend to provide a different viewpoint "The way I see it!" on various world, national and local issues with a few helpful tips & tidbits sprinkled in.

Don't fall for another promise of tax relief

Milwaukee County, Taxes

Scott Walker has stated it was okay to reprint his article.

Don't fall for another promise of tax relief
By Scott Walker

Posted: Oct. 30, 2008

Milwaukee County voters on Tuesday will weigh in on this non-binding referendum:

"Shall the State of Wisconsin grant Milwaukee County the authority to provide property tax relief of at least sixty-seven million dollars ($67 million) by levying a one percent county use and sales tax to be used to remove the following three items from the property tax levy: parks, recreation and culture; transit; and emergency medical services (EMS)?"

NoIn 1991, Milwaukee County began collecting a 0.5% sales tax with the promise of "property tax relief.”  From 1992 to 2007, the property tax levy went up 70.9% - more than $100 million.

Now, the Milwaukee County Board is asking voters to approve a referendum calling for a 1% sales tax increase with the promise of property tax relief and more than $60 million in new spending.  Does the board really think we will fall for that trick again?

Here are the facts:

• The referendum calls for a $130 million sales tax increase at a time when businesses and families are struggling to make ends meet.

• Government spending will increase dramatically if the referendum plan is enacted.  The referendum claims to provide $67 million in property tax relief by shifting funding for certain programs currently funded by the property tax to the sales tax, but the County Board gives no explanation of how it will spend the remaining $63 million.

• Ultimately, there is no guarantee of "property tax relief.”  The referendum is non-binding.  It does not prevent the current County Board or future County Boards from raising property taxes.

• Passage of the referendum will make Milwaukee County a tax island, driving shoppers, businesses and jobs out of Milwaukee County. Do we want to have the highest sales tax in the region and in the state?

• County spending has outstripped inflation. Since 1992, the property tax levy has gone up 70.9%.  During that same time, our ability to pay - as measured by inflation - rose by only 38.6%.  As we've learned from the past, increasing the sales tax will only perpetuate out-of-control spending by the County Board.

• There are better options than simply increasing taxes.  My 2009 budget proposal calls for no increase in the property tax levy and no increase in the sales tax.  At the same time, we maintain all transit routes and increase transit services for people with disabilities; we add 26,000 hours of labor in the parks, build a new aquatics center and replace failing bathrooms and playground equipment; and we maintain one of the best emergency medical services systems in the country.

The choice is not either to raise taxes or to cut services.  We need to demand greater innovation from our government to maintain necessary programs and quality-of-life assets.  Implementing a parks district, seeking public-private partnerships throughout county government and exploring a lease of Mitchell International Airport to fund improved transit options that enable our residents to get to work are creative, exciting opportunities for our county and region.

Nearly 20 years ago, the County Board promised "property tax relief" with a half-cent sales tax, and the property tax levy went up 70.9%.  Milwaukee County taxpayers cannot afford more tax relief like that.

I remain committed to submitting honest and balanced budgets that continue to support our parks, transit and other essential services such as public safety, human services and infrastructure improvements.  I also will continue to advance funding solutions that don't further burden county taxpayers.

If the members of the County Board want to provide property tax relief while protecting transit, improving our parks and preserving a quality EMS system, they should pass the 2009 budget that I presented.  It protects both services and the taxpayer.

Around election time, politicians make a lot of promises.  We now have some on the County Board again promising property tax relief.  The public should remember the old saying, "Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me."

Scott Walker is Milwaukee County executive.

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