Barrett, others call for residency requirement removed from budget

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal is under public scrutiny, and the residency requirement issue is one budget item that has garnered attention in Milwaukee. Gov. Walker's budget proposes eliminating the residency requirement -- a move that has people on both sides of this issue speaking out.

The residency requirement is a rule that requires all Milwaukee public workers to live within the city of Milwaukee.

On Monday, April 8th, there was another effort to get that item out of the budget -- and an appeal for the public's help in doing so.

The Brotherhood of Milwaukee Firefighters group stood with the majority of Milwaukee City Council members and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on Monday -- as Mayor Barrett hosted a press conference at City Hall to discuss the residency requirement issue.

(We would like people) to ask the state Legislature -- specifically the Joint Finance Committee to remove from the budget that has been presented to them by Governor Walker a provision that has no reason to be in the budget," Mayor Barrett said.

"Residency is a condition of employment and an issue of local control -- not a budgetary item and to leave it in the budget would be an injustice to the city," Everette Cocroft with the Brotherhood of Milwaukee Firefighters said.

The residency requirement has been in place since 1938. It was a topic of discussion last week, when the state's Joint Finance Committee held a public hearing regarding the budget in Greendale.

After Milwaukee aldermen spoke at the hearing, some Milwaukee police officers confronted them in the hallway -- and one of them spoke to the Committee.

"I fought for freedoms. I believe in this. I believe that an employer should not have the right to tell me where I should live just because I provide them a service," Milwaukee Police Officer Gnell Podlesnik said.

Officer Podlesnik contends it is about choice -- but so does Alderman Michael Murphy.

"It is a choice -- a choice that you knew when you took that terms of employment that you had made a committment -- you made a promise that you were committed to working and receiving a good pay and a good salary and benefits in our city," Alderman Murphy said.

If the residency requirement is eliminated, Alderman Murphy estimates that within 10 years, 50% of city employees will leave Milwaukee, while continuing to work int he city -- which he says would be devastating for the city.

Murphy also says there is an overwhelming number of applicants who want employment with the city of Milwaukee with the residency requirement in place.