On Monday morning, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin sat down with Governor Scott Walker to talk about several issues of interest to Wisconsin's capital city. Soglin says the meeting focused on how the state disperses shared revenue funds, along with TIF funding for police and fire stations, among other topics.
Madison's portion of shared revenue funding is a longstanding concern of the mayor's, who during his previous term in the 1990s had a dispute with former Gov. Tommy Thompson about the issue. The city's cut has continued to decrease since than, and currently stands at about $7 million.
Soglin compares Madison's shared revenue support to Milwaukee's, which he says receives $180 million from the state. If Madison received funds at the same rate, it would take in $75 million every year, according to the mayor. (According to Milwaukee's Budget Office, the city received $218 million in shared revenue in 2012, which in turn would make for an even higher figure for Madison.)
"Our poverty is not as great as Milwaukee's, but certainly the disparity of Milwaukee getting [around thirty times more than Madison] needs attention," says Soglin.
Additionally, he continues, there are "wealthy Milwaukee suburbs" receiving more funding per capita than Madison. This is similar to a criticism the mayor made in a 1994 Isthmus article, objecting that cities such as Racine, Beloit, Kenosha and others received more than Madison.
"We spend less than $1000 per capita, and that includes operating a transit service. There's other cities in the state that spend well over $1100-$1200 dollars capita," Soglin states. "Milwaukee spends $1500 per capita, and they don't even have to operate a transit service because theirs is operated by the county."
According to Soglin, Walker "acknowledged there was an issue, and he said he would look into it," but didn't offer any more than that.
The mayor refuses to compare Walker's stance on shared revenues with that of past governors, such as Thompson, and dismisses that question as irrelevant.
"I think what's important is that the governor acknowledges there are problems and addresses it in subsequent budgets, so we'll see if that happens," Soglin notes.
Moving forward, Soglin isn't sure if anything will change, but says he has mentioned it to other mayors from around Wisconsin hoping to gain their support.
"It's a decision that needs support from the governor, from the legislature, and also from other Wisconsin cities," he says. "I just don't know."
The meeting covered other municipal budgetary matters, with Soglin saying that Walker indicated a willingness to examine allowing Madison to use TIF for police and fire stations. A current state statue prevents the use of TIF dollars for public buildings.
Walker's office did not respond to multiple phone and email requests for comment.