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Milwaukee mayor looks not to buck Republican lawmakers on spending limits

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(The Center Square) – While Milwaukee’s city council is rushing toward raising the city’s sales tax, and continues to talk about suing over state-mandated spending restrictions, Milwaukee’s mayor is taking another direction.

Mayor Cavalier Johnson on Monday said the city will look for ways to fund its priorities, without running afoul of the limits that Republican lawmakers set in state law on diversity, equity, and inclusion spending.

“Milwaukee will not defy the law. However, we will find ways to follow through on our principles,” Johnson said at Monday’s State of the City address.

That’s at odds with what Milwaukee’s Common Council president said after the first vote on Milwaukee’s sales tax increase on Monday.

“Those policy provisions were made in Madison by legislators that don’t look like people of color in Milwaukee, don’t represent us,” Council President Jose Perez said after Monday’s vote. “And at every point we’re going to look at what we can do to reverse those.”

Perez first brought-up the idea of a lawsuit last week, shortly after Gov. Tony Evers signed the shared revenue law that allows Milwaukee to raise its sales tax to 2%.

That tax will bring-in millions of dollars per-month of Milwaukee.

Republican lawmakers, as part of their sales tax agreement with the governor and Mayor Johnson, however ordered that Milwaukee only be able to spend the new tax money on police officers, firefighters, roads, and the city’s massive pension debt.

Republican lawmakers forbade Milwaukee from using the money on DEI initiatives, and the city’s street car.

Johnson said the state-imposed limits will not stop Milwaukee from trying to find a way to do, what he says is, the right thing.

“Government has a moral obligation to help those folks who have been left out,” Johnson said. “It’s basic human decency to intervene when harm disproportionately affects one or more racial groups.”

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos last week said talk of a lawsuit from Milwaukee is “disappointing.”

“We have literally spent months negotiating in good faith, saying that we were willing to flex on some of the things that were core priorities for us as conservatives, and it seemed like they were willing to flex on things that were important for them. To find that common-sense consensus. And to now say they are going to use the very dollars the state of Wisconsin gave them to sue the state is a really bad sign for future relations,” Vos said.

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