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Oct. 29, 2008
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Vote Yes on Property Tax Relief

Voting “yes” on the Milwaukee County sales tax advisory referendum is the best way to preserve our parks, transit, emergency medical services (EMS) and cultural institutions while lowering property taxes.

This referendum is advisory only, but it allows voters to voice their opinions on one of Milwaukee County’s most pressing financial issues.

Voting “yes” would be a step toward taking the parks, bus system, EMS and cultural assets off of the property tax rolls of Milwaukee County. This would reduce property taxes by about $67 million in its first year. And it would truly lower the property tax bill because the entire line item, total costs, for the parks, transit, EMS and cultural institutions would be completely removed from the property tax bill and be paid for with a penny increase in the sales tax. Furthermore, about 30% of Milwaukee County’s sales tax revenues come from individuals who reside outside of the county.

The small increase in the sales tax would not turn Milwaukee County into a tax island because the extra penny per dollar in tax is not large enough to induce shoppers to travel outside of the county just to save a little money. The largest consumer purchase we make is the automobile, and car purchasers pay sales tax based on the county where they live, not where they purchase their car. Necessities like groceries would be exempt from the tax, so it would not be a burden for the elderly or those earning a lower income.

The benefit of voting “yes” is strong support for the parks, transit, EMS and cultural institutions that everyone can enjoy. These are assets that make living in Milwaukee worthwhile. A reliable bus system is necessary for business growth, and well-maintained parks and top-notch cultural institutions attract residents and businesses to Milwaukee.

Vote Yes on Paid Sick Days

When’s the last time you were able to change your employer’s policies—for the better?

You can, on Nov. 4 in the city of Milwaukee, by voting “yes” on the paid sick days referendum. The referendum would allow workers to earn up to nine paid sick days per year if they work full time for a large company, or five paid sick days if they work for a small business. Almost half of Milwaukee’s workers do not have any paid sick days. The paid days off could be used to recover from illness, care for a sick relative or find safety after experiencing domestic violence or sexual assault. This referendum is an example of direct legislation, so voting “yes” would make paid sick days the official policy within the city of Milwaukee, without the approval of the mayor or the Milwaukee Common Council.

Many Milwaukee employers support this policy because they already provide a humane sick day policy and feel that this would level the business playing field. Others oppose this ordinance out of fear that treating sick workers humanely would damage the “business climate” in Milwaukee. But common sense—and reputable studies—indicates that allowing sick workers to take time off will enhance productivity, reduce costly turnover and improve morale. In fact, a study by the nonpartisan Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that Milwaukee employers would save $15 million each year if the referendum is passed, largely due to reduced costs of turnover.

And the policy would help the public health, too. After all, seven out of every eight food service workers do not have paid sick days, which means that viruses can spread quickly since many workers can’t afford to stay home when they’re sick. Referendum organizers 9to5 and their allies collected more than 40,000 signatures in order to place this question on the Nov. 4 ballot. That strong grassroots support shows that this policy is necessary for the health and well-being of our community. Vote “yes” for paid sick days on Nov. 4.

Say Yes to Better Health Care

An advisory referendum asks voters in South Milwaukee and Oak Creek the following question: “Shall the state Legislature enact health care reform legislation by Dec. 31, 2009, that guarantees to every Wisconsin resident affordable coverage as good as what is provided to state legislators?” We need to stress that this is an advisory vote. But we argue that voters should still say yes.

Every person should be able to visit a doctor when they’re sick, take medication when it’s warranted and not have to go into bankruptcy if they face a long illness. If the state and federal government do not act quickly and comprehensively to reform the system, the growing health care crisis will turn into a national tragedy that’s too big to solve. Voters can press the issue by voting “yes.” And their legislators should hear them and act.


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