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Proposal to raise Milwaukee County sales tax by 1 percent moves forward

Data pix.

MILWAUKEE COUNTY -- Milwaukee County leaders are moving forward with a plan to raise the local sales tax. The state Legislature would first have to agree to put the proposal on the spring ballot, then voters would have to approve the one-percent increase.

A one-percent increase may not sound like a lot but it's three times more than we are paying now. That can add up quickly, especially for families already struggling to make ends meet.

Supporters say a one-percent increase will generate $160 million its first year, money local leaders say will prevent cuts to police and fire services, road repairs, and park maintenance.

City of Milwaukee

The increase would not affect groceries, prescription drugs, or medical devices -- items already exempt from a sales tax. However, most other purchases and services would rise. How much you kick in depends on how much you spend.

Here's an example: If you paid $900 to replace a couch and love seat and paid $50.42 in sales tax, under the new tax you'd pay $8.11 more. It's not a lot on a big purchase but economists say it's the little things -- like household items -- that really add up.

Scott Adams

"They certainly will notice that," said Scott Adams, an economics professor University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee economics professor, Scott Adams says, the increased cost of things we buy daily or even weekly, will have more of an impact on low income families.

"Turn that dollar over for every decision you make and that adds up to a much higher percentage of family making 30 versus a family making 100," said Adams.

Adams says that could force some to change their spending habits, which is why he believes asking voters to approve the sales tax hike is the right move -- allowing residents to decide how much more they are willing to chip in.

"If it's not good for the citizens of Milwaukee, they will vote no," said Adams.


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