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Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.

Sales tax referendum: I respond to a tax and spend Milw. Co. Board member

I’ve written several blogs about the sales tax increase referendum (The vote is NO) on Milwaukee County ballots November 4th.  Milwaukee County Board members approved the advisory referendum and were able to thwart a veto by one if the few sane voices inside the Milwaukee County Courthouse, County Executive Scott Walker. And so, we have this foolish sales tax increase question (The vote is NO) on the ballot Tuesday.

When I wrote in early September on this topic, I got a response from Milwaukee County Supervisor Pat Jursik. I never responded………until now. Jursik is part of a major problem on the clueless, tax and spend Milwaukee County Board. Here is her comment on my blog from two months ago, in its entirety, unedited, just the way she wrote it, with my responses in red.

You leave so many important issues out I needed to clarify:

Yes, please do, Supervisor. You are so much smarter than me or the average voter. Explain it to me.

Our transit system is in crisis (Public Policy Research forum, an independent organization) our parks are in crisis (over $300 M of deferred maintenance, even basics such as bathrooms don't work); the paramedic program in Milw. Co. is paid by the county so cities can share this service(consolidation)is in jeopardy of being cancelled (should cities put this in their tax levy?).

Typical scare tactic ploy by the tax and spend crowd. The sky is falling and the only solution is a huge tax increase.

The referendum asks if the voters wants to restructure our current system of paying for these services by taking these three areas off the property tax levy and instead pay for them through a 1% sales tax.

“Restructure?” Don’t try to snow the taxpayers. The referendum asks if taxpayers want to TRIPLE the sales tax.

Milwaukee is the ONLY city that still pays for transit with property tax levy while all other cities pay through a sales tax;

I don’t care what other cities do. Should we emulate what Chicago does? They’ve got one of the highest sales taxes in the country, Supervisor.

Wisconsin has one of the highest property tax rates and yet one of the lowest sales taxes in the country.

Our sales tax is low.  Hello!!! That’s a GOOD THING! What the hell kind of argument is that? One of our taxes is too low, It needs to be raised????

What do we get by shifting this burden to sales tax?

“Shifting the burden.” Another smokescreen for “tax increase.”

First participation of users from out-of-county who use our transit and parks (think Harley Fest).

Uhhh, really dumb, Supervisor. The out-of-county visitors to Harley Fest aren’t using public transit……………they’re using their own Harley’s.

Secondly, real property tax relief:  the owner of a $150,000. home saves $165 in tax levy, and more importantly it reduces the tax base in Milwaukee County so that the 2% limit on tax levy will actually reduce taxes.

Oooohh, I LOVE THIS ONE! Our property taxes will go down if only we just walk into that voting booth and make the utterly stupid decision to TRIPLE our sales tax. History says otherwise. Sorry, Supervisor to combat your tax and spend hysteria with some real, honest to goodness facts.

July 2007: The Milwaukee County Board, claiming Milwaukee County needs more revenue to save the parks and transit, approves an advisory referendum calling for a one-cent increase in the sales tax. It would bring in $120 million; thus, it’s a $120- million tax increase.

1991: The Milwaukee County Board approves a .5% sales tax increase, promising it will reduce property taxes and help fund the parks, the exact promise we’re hearing today.

So what happened?

1992-2002: Following the sales tax increase, property taxes went up 55%.

1992-2002: Following the sales tax increase, tax levy support for the parks dropped. In 1980, tax levy support for the parks was 45% of the county budget. By 2000, it had dropped below 10%. (Note: Scott Walker was NOT the County Executive then. Sorry to disappoint Walker critics).

Since 1/3 of our sales taxes are collected by visitors who are out-of-county residents, amenities like the zoo which has visitors oof ver  60% from out of county while our tax payers continue to pay the burden of these services.  I haven't said much about transit, but the county has not replaced buses (instead using federal funds earmarked for replacement) for operating costs for about 5 years.  In 2010 we are looking at a 10 to 12 million deficit in transit.  Are we willing to be a county without mass transit? Or do we put all of this cost on the property levy, if so, we can forgo this referendum.  Don't forget the cost of unemployment will have its own ramifications (nearly 50% of bus users travel for employment purposes).  I have studied this referendum carefully and think any Milw. county voter who also does so will vote YES.

Targeted tax increases never go where they’re intended.

Where will any additional sales tax revenue go?

To parks? No.

To transit? No.

To pensions? Yes.

To health care benefits for county workers? Yes.

Future County Boards will not be required to use any sales tax revenue for parks or transit. Do you really trust this County Board to spend the money the way they say they would?

Let’s analyze in simple terms what the public seems to understand but some tax and spend-happy County Board members don’t.

The current Milwaukee County sales tax is:


The resolution calling for a referendum asks Milwaukee County voters to increase the sales tax by:


That would bring the Milwaukee County sales tax to:


Do the math: 1.5% as opposed to the current .5%.

That is a
TRIPLING of the current sales tax.

That’s right.

Milwaukee County Board members want to
TRIPLE your county sales tax and they think you’re stupid enough to go to the polls and willingly make the choice to TRIPLE your county share of the sales tax. This would be on top, don’t forget, of the state sales tax and the Miller Park sales tax.

These county supervisors apparently believe that our taxes in these parts just aren’t high enough and need to be raised even more, and not by just a little bit, but instead they need to be……


You also know you’re living in a tax hell when you have some yahoo’s who are downright giddy at the possibility that their county sales tax might be……….


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