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Gov. Walker's budget wipes out public employee residency requirements statewide

by
Green Bay Police Chief Tom Molitor
Green Bay Police Chief Tom Molitor

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - Wisconsin’s public employees would no longer have to live in the communities they serve, under the governor’s budget package.

Republican Scott Walker was expected to propose an end to residency requirements in Milwaukee. But in a surprise move, the Walker budget would wipe out residency mandates in all of Wisconsin’s city, village, town, and county governments – plus public school districts.

Many places require employees to live where they serve, so they can be available at a moment’s notice for emergencies – and to know first-hand what their fellow taxpayers are living through. But many workers say it stifles their freedom.

Residency mandates are not uniform throughout Wisconsin. In some places, only department heads must live in town.

It became a major issue in Green Bay, when Mayor Jim Schmitt pushed for a waiver to the city's residency requirement for new Police Chief Tom Molitor. Molitor, who initially retired in 2011, had been living in Abrams and sought to be able to become Titletown's top cop while still living at his home.

The City Council ultimately approved a waiver for Molitor.

In Milwaukee, both the police and fire unions have been fighting to end a residency mandate for all city workers that goes back 75 years. Mayor Tom Barrett accused Walker of paying back both unions for supporting him in his previous two elections. And Barrett said the state budget should not be used to give favors to campaign donors.

The mayor also said some of the homes that public employees leave could be left vacant – and that would add to an existing foreclosure crisis.

The Journal Sentinel says the city government is now Milwaukee’s largest landlord, due mainly to thousands of foreclosures. Barrett says some of the vacant homes have become magnets for crime. 

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