Milwaukee’s Sales Tax Referendum: Vote Yes

Two quick things. First one is, I made a video (don’t feel obligated to watch it, just pointing it out. 😀 )

Second is I want to hear your opinion about this. Why do you think voting yes is a good or bad idea? Leave it in the comments. I was just going through the comments on the video and my mom brought up a good point:

It is unfortunate that the only way to fund these necessary services is through a sales tax, one of the most regressive forms of taxation. There is no reason public transportation has to be so expensive, inaccessible, and dangerous. If some of our federal tax dollars used to subsidize cars was put in public transportation, we wouldn’t have to have a sales tax to fund public transportation.

Yet another reason to add to my long “I hate big inefficient governments” list. Miss allocation of resources. Car and oil companies spend top dollar bribing politicians into allocating federal funds to road construction. Car and oil companies don’t want AWESOME public transportation. Grrr… On to the post.

How are we (in Milwaukee) going to solve the problem we have with city parks and public transportation? These are two questions I’ve been asking myself since I moved back to Milwaukee in June of 2007, before I even heard of the sales tax referendum we’ll be voting on on the 4th. Here’s the language of what you will be voting on:

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 (1%) county sales and use tax to be used to remove the following three items from the property tax levy: parks recreation culture, transit and emergency medical services (EMS)?

I met with [a group of people] to understand what that meant and listen to why I should vote yes. First I’ll explain the referendum in my own language.

The Tax Referendum Explained

First off, even if 90% of people vote yes on this referendum, it doesn’t guarantee that it will go through. Another vote happens on the 10th by 10 “higher level political dudes” (just looked it up, 6 of the 7 Regional Transit Authority (RTA) committee members need to vote yes) that would take things to the next level. They will use the data from the vote on the 4th to determine how they should vote.

So what is being asked is should we stop using money from property taxes to fund park and rec, transit and EMS, and instead increase sales tax by 1% to give these three things a dedicated source of funding. I actually fucking hate taxes (and don’t feel none too good about most things government) but we have a situation here that needs fixing and I don’t see another proposed solution on the table.

The way things are done now is we get a big chunk of money from property taxes that needs to be used on a bunch of stuff like schools, garbage dudes and shit like that I’m thinking (I don’t know for sure because I had trouble finding that data online). So anytime we want to add a new program, or expand an existing one something else needs to get cut. Without a dedicated source of funding (from something like the 1% sales tax increase) the something else that will keep getting cut is transit, park and rec and EMS.

This is a problem because transit is something that needs MORE funding as time goes by (especially here in Milwaukee).

My Political Leaning

I already said it once, but I’ll say it again. I hate taxes and don’t like our large and fucking incompetent government (local, state and federal). A friend noticed that I added myself to the [Vote “YES” on Nov 4th for a Better Milwaukee!] Facebook group and sent me a message about how the Democrats have been running things in the city for years and suck. Well I think Democrats are stupid, Republicans are stupid and even most “libertarians” seem stupid. Most people just seem stupid regards of what they label themselves politically. My interest lies in solutions to problems. The best label I’ve come up with for myself is “classical liberal” but I even think that one is lacking… At the end of the day I want there to be less stupidity and more “enlightenment” among the masses.

Why Transit Needs Better Funding

I have a few reasons why I think transit needs better funding. At the top of the list is the decline I’ve seen in public transportation since I was a wee lad until now. Today we have less routes and less buses on the streets. And the cost to get on the bus has risen (at a rate that is more than inflation).

Second, INFLATION! Right now we are spending less and less each year on public transit. Even if we spent the same amount each year that would STILL be less and less because of (the hidden fucking tax called) inflation. Also, think about the price of gas going up. How can we improve public transit with spending decreasing while the cost to operate it increases? That’s impossible.

Finally, the public needs good public transportation. I fucking hate owning a truck, but I need to in order to be an effective citizen in the city. I haven’t used my truck for about 3 weeks now and I’ve done OK with public transportation, but if I didn’t have friends to help me with things… It’d be another story. Plus the city is already ASS about owning a vehicle. I’ve already paid to get my car out of the tow lot TWICE in the last year (that’s $190), have like $400 in parking tickets and… I fucking hate the city for some things… Where is THAT money going?

Why The Parks Need Better Funding

Basically I see the parks as a part of the solution to our city’s problem with crime. 99.9999% of people are not born criminals. The environments they’re raised in guides them in that direction. We can blame parents all day long, but that’s not going to do much when you’re confronted by a teen demanding your wallet at gun point. Schools is one solutions but… that almost seems like a lost cause to me (they lack the flexibility for the level of change needed). Park and Rec on the other hand have locations built into the city that reach these kids and could have programs that would positively affect their lives. Every park should have a variety of programs available to the kids that hang out there. This sales tax increase would take us one step closer to that.

Why Are You Voting No?

If this post reaches someone that will (or did) vote no, I would LOVE to hear why. The only reasons I’ve been able to muster up online is a fear that the 1% sales tax increase is going to affect businesses located in Milwaukee county by driving people out of the county to make purchases. I understand that, but I doubt the effects of the increase would be that serious, except for business that are close to the border or businesses selling large items (like cars maybe). But even in these situations, if the sales tax is used correctly (I and a lot of other people will be sure of that) I think the positive effects will out weight the negative effects over time (5-15 years out). But that’s another reason people are stupid and I despise governments… no vision.

If you read this far and have a thought to share, I’d like to hear it.

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4 Responses to Milwaukee’s Sales Tax Referendum: Vote Yes

  1. Mike Harmon says:

    You know, I have to tell you, I really enjoy this blog and the insight from everyone who participates. I find it to be refreshing and very informative. I wish there were more blogs like it. Anyway, I felt it was about time I posted, I’ve spent most of my time here just lurking and reading, but today for some reason I just felt compelled to say this.

  2. Magdalicious says:

    No wonder you had a headache :D.

    Interesting problem and proposed solution, I can see how people would be hesitant to agree to that just because slipping more taxes in seems like it should work. But it only works if they actually use the money the way that promise that they will…. but so often it’s promised and then when it’s in it just ends up being a payday for some jack ass in the government… (I’m not jaded or have no faith in the system.. honest 😉 )

    The first part of the video was silly as hell but the last half of the video was really good… very well done. I think you have a really good point about the transit system needing to NOT SUCK, and that kids need places to go and things to do. That’s what stops kids joining gangs and keeps them out of trouble. Community centres that provide activities and places for kids to go are crutial for the developement of the youth, it’s so sad that so many people with the money and power to make it happen don’t see that.

  3. ghostin says:

    Nice post, and a double for being non-partisan about it.

    Where to start, first off since I am no longer a resident of the city of Milwaukee, I have no say so in this matter, but this seems to be a ploy to do 2 things:
    1. Lower property taxes which would in turn attempt to have people purchase more homes in Milwaukee, thus in a sense bring more revenue to Milwaukee (something it desperately needs).
    2. Have a localized tax is specifically easier to manage without worrying about other elements of government dictating what the funds should be used for (in regards to Porperty Tax funds competition in the County).

    What’s sad is that no one wants to really budget. Go take a trip to City Council and just see your tax dollars at work, you can see how nonchalant those idiots are about the people’s money. There’s a book by Dr. Michael Brown that covers how messed up the budget is in Milwaukee. The city gets a few million for it’s inner city in attempts to improve it, but instead it uses the money for municipality fees (cops, etc.) instead of improving poor folks way of life. You can see the neglect of this by just driving down Center Ave. from MLK Dr. to Lisbon (where people still live bordering Wauwatosa)

  4. globalmarquette says:

    Very thoughtful approach to these issues. Thanks for writing this.

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