Gov. Walker wants to lift residency requirements for Milw. workers

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MADISON (WITI) -- City of Milwaukee employees have a residency requirement and must live in the city in which they work. Gov. Scott Walker wants to change this, and the idea isn't sitting well with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Gov. Walker trumpeted several proposals in his budget, which he unveiled in an address from the state Capitol on Wednesday night, February 20th. However, he left the issue of the residency requirement out.

"He didn't mention a word in his speech, because he can't defend it," Mayor Barrett said.

Gov. Walker proposes lifting Milwaukee's 80-year-old residency rule requiring city employees to live within city limits.

Mayor Barrett says it's a gift to the unions that supported him in his last two elections.

"This has nothing to do with shared revenue, nothing to do with tax relief.  They should have a special section in the budget called political payback favors," Mayor Barrett said.

Firefighters Union President Dave Seager has long-advocated repealing the residency requirement. He says city workers should have the freedom to choose where they want to live.

"In fact, cities comparable to ours, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Columbus, St. louis, don't have residency restrictions," Seager said.

Mayor Barrett uses the example of Minneapolis, which lifted its residency requirement over a decade ago, and subsequently saw more than 40% of its city workforce move out. Mayor Barrett worries about a similar exodus in Milwaukee.

"This is going to put downward pressure on property values at a time when we are trying to get our head above water because of the foreclosure crisis, to have the governor come in with this -- a kick in the teeth, is simply wrong," Mayor Barrett said.

"To put it bluntly, the reality of the situation is that throughout the Midwest, throughout the country, no one has this anymore. It's antiquated," Seager said.

Seager says he doesn't believe lifting the rule will cause workers to move out of the city. He says the firefighters essentially live in the city at the firehouses while they're on duty.

Mayor Barrett argues there is no reason to lift the rule because the fire and police departments are flooded with applications -- which he says is proof people still want to work and live in Milwaukee.