Increased aid to local governments axed from Evers' budget

MADISON (WKOW) — Republicans scrapped several of Gov. Tony Evers budget priorities this week and one of those would have boosted the amount of money flowing into communities to pay for things like flood damage or potholes.

It’s called shared revenue where the state sends money to local governments twice a year. But since the recession, money communities receive was scaled back significantly and communities haven’t seen an increase since 2007.

Evers proposed a 2% increase or about $280 million towards shared revenue, but Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee blocked it.

The “shared revenue” program was created to address the negative impacts on local governments of a new property tax exemption. According to Wisconsin’s League of Municipalities, at the outset, 70% of the income tax the state collected was distributed to municipalities through the program.

Lawmakers say without an increase to the program for over a decade, it’s forcing communities, especially rural areas, to borrow money to pay for flood damage repairs or fixing roads.

Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) said in some situations it’s leaving local officials having to choose whether to repair roads or implement new mental health programs. Without any increase, taxpayers are left to pay for improvements, which adds up quickly in small towns. 

“They need to listen to the people of the state of Wisconsin and adopt their priorities,” said Rep. Taylor. “It’s all about priorities and we have the money to make these investments.”

Taylor says she hopes to convince her Republican colleges on the budget writing committee to support an increase to local governments shared revenue pot. Without it, taxpayers could face dire cuts in local programs.

WKOW reached out to Republican leaders and JFC Co-Chair Rep. John Nygren for a statement but did not receive an immediate reply.

In the past, Republicans have fought to keep property taxes low, instead of increases to local aid.

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