Committee votes to change residency requirements

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The Joint Committee on Finance has voted in favor of changing residency requirements in Wisconsin.

After much talk of a compromise, the committee voted that police, fire and emergency workers will be required to live within 15 miles of the city or county where they work. Other city and school employees can live anywhere they choose.

Currently, local governments like the city of Milwaukee can decide whether to impose a residency requirement. Milwaukee requires workers to live in the city -- but Thursday's vote is the first step in changing that.

"There's going to be opportunity for people who might otherwise not have applied in the city of Milwaukee," said Mike Crivello of the Milwaukee Police Association.

The head of the Milwaukee Professional Firefighters Association, Dave Seager, predicts his members will be pleased, but doesn't foresee a mass exodus from the city.

"The trends do not indicate that will even happen. I know for example my membership alone, very few, if any, are going to move," said Seager.

The change will affect the city of Milwaukee more than any other city. Democrat Jon Richards from Milwaukee voted against changing the residency requirements.

"It's not much of a compromise at all. I'm disappointed that we stepped away from local control and once again did something that will hurt the city of Milwaukee," said Richards.

Richards is also worried that the change could hurt Milwaukee's ability to maintain it's population.

"When people are drawing a large paycheck with a very generous benefits package from city of Milwaukee taxpayers, I think it's reasonable to condition with their employment that they live in the city," said Richards.

Governor Scott Walker had proposed doing away with any statewide residency requirements in his budget. This committee vote is one step closer to doing that. A vote to remove Gov. Walker's proposal from the budget altogether failed Thursday night.