Are they joking? Milwaukee County pitches raising taxes to lower taxes

Empower Wisconsin | Sept. 11, 2019 
MADISON — If you give your dog medicine, it’s generally best to put some peanut butter on the pill. It’s easier to swallow that way.

That’s what Milwaukee County officials are effectively doing in pitching a local sales tax hike by a full percentage point. Give us this tax hike and we could use it to lower your property taxes, a gang of strange political bedfellows insists. 

Where have we heard this story before? Oh, yes, just about every time someone wants a tax hike of any kind in this state. We are told you’ve got to raise taxes somewhere else to lower property taxes here. 

It’s a generally effective sales pitch in a state that ranks high nationally in property tax burden, and No. 1 in the Midwest in municipality addiction to property tax revenue. 

But how much real property tax relief has been delivered by hiking other government revenue enhancers? The answer remains in Wisconsin’s high tax burden rankings. 

Milwaukee County officials assert that 25 percent of the increased sales tax revenue will come from tourists, non-residents. In short, stick someone else with the bill. But local residents do the vast majority of everyday consuming — and taxpaying. 

Again, the sales pitch is that a sales tax increase “could be used to reduce property taxes.” But look what’s eagerly waiting behind that big-government wish list: “investment in municipal facilities, community assets and services and … capital projects and deferred maintenance,” according to Wisconsin Public Radio. 

Look who’s behind the legislation to get the state on board. State. Rep. Evan Goyke and state Sen. LaTonya Johnson, two Milwaukee liberals who have yet to meet a tax hike they didn’t like. 

With grow-government types pushing the tax hike, how likely do you think easing property taxes will be a priority? 

It’s a good question to ask: What’s the punchline when someone tells you they want to raise taxes to lower taxes? The joke, again, will be on Milwaukee County taxpayers. 


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