State-County Relationship Changing Amid Tensions

Oct 10, 2016


The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance has posed the question whether the long-standing relationship between the State of Wisconsin and its counties are changing.

Called "County Government in Wisconsin: An Overview of Organization, Responsibilities, and Funding", the report shows the growing tensions.

Alliance spokesperson David Callender says the main source of tension is the counties are an arm of state government and at the same time are responsible for raising revenue on their own....

"....counties have to provide services on behalf of the state, the state monies are not there, but yet the counties also limited in the amount of money they can raise through the property tax...."

Officials often refer to this as unfunded state mandates. The report highlights the 72 counties role in delivering services, such as care for senior citizens, those with disabilities, mental health and other needs. Callender says options being explored are the state taking over services on a regional basis, or decentralizing services and lifting mandates that counties provide services. He says the state is not enthused about paying for all the services...

"...from the state's perspective, I think that would not be a particularly attractive option because ultimately the state would have to fund all these services, rather than be able to rely on counties for providing at least part of the revenues...."

The full report is on the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance website.