Governor Evers Proposes Allowing Local Governments to Raise Taxes

Governor Tony Evers wants to allow counties to be able to double their existing sales tax and allow larger municipalities to impose a new half-cent sales tax, if local voters approve.

The proposal announced Friday drew widespread support from local governments that would benefit from the additional money, which they said would lessen their reliance on property taxes. But the idea divided the state’s business community, with the statewide chamber of commerce opposing it but Milwaukee economic development groups backing it.

Evers said state budget plan will include the tax increase option for those local governments, which could generate additional money that he said could be put toward local roads, services, maintenance, public safety and public health.

Evers’ proposal would require approval of a referendum in the affected county or municipality before the local sales tax could be increased. Evers said by doing that, those who live in the area and would be affected by higher taxes could decide if they want to impose it on themselves.

Current law allows counties to impose a half-cent sales tax. Evers’ plan would allow them to double that. All but four of the state’s 72 counties currently impose the tax. Under the plan, municipalities with 30,000 or more residents could impose a half-cent sales tax for the first time. That would apply to more than two dozen cities across the state, including Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha, Racine, Appleton, Eau Claire, Oshkosh, Janesville, La Crosse, Wausau and Beloit.

The state sales tax rate is 5%.