Mayor Barrett pushing for new city sales tax to boost police and fire department budgets

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Tom Barrett

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is pushing for a new city sales tax. He says the money would give a big boost to the police and fire department budgets. Wisconsin is the only state in the Midwest that does not allow cities to have their own sales tax. Mayor Barrett is asking Madison to let Milwaukee residents vote on his proposed public safety tax.

Money changes hands all day long at Glorioso's. A share of the money taken in by the east side institutions goes to the government but not City Hall. Mayor Barrett wants to change that.


"We're constrained to just two major revenue sources: the property tax and the shared revenue we receive from the state of Wisconsin," said Barrett.

Barrett says the problem is property tax money isn't keeping up with the growing police budget while state aid has decreased. He's asking the state to allow a referendum on a half-percent city sales tax. It would generate about $35 million a year.

Ted Glorioso

"I'm skeptical of how our government is spending our money," said Ted Glorioso.

After 72 years in business, Ted Glorioso -- who owns both the store and a jewelry shop -- says he's on board with more public safety funding but hates the idea of making customers pay more.

"By the time you buy the soda water, the potato chips, and the sandwich, you're looking at $3.50 and 50 cents are going to sales tax and what do we get out of it," said Glorioso.

Barrett says the money would allow the city to hire about 20 new officers by 2019, instead of letting about 80 vacancies go unfilled. It would also allow the city to keep two fire trucks. There would be two new community prosecution units and other departments would get property tax money currently going to police and fire.

But before the people can answer, the legislature and governor must allow the city to ask.

"Give us the authority to have a referendum to ask our citizens whether they're willing to have this sales tax," said Barrett.

If there is a referendum on a city sales tax, it'll be on the ballot for the April election.