GREENDALE (WITI) -- Should Milwaukee public workers be required to live in the city of Milwaukee? The residency requirement has been law since the 1930s, but it is a law that could soon change. It was a hot issue being discussed at a public hearing of the Joint Finance Committee held at Greendale High School Thursday, April 4th.
The public hearing was the first in a series of hearings providing an opportunity for the public to hear and discuss items in Governor Scott Walker's 2014 budget proposal.
Gov. Walker's proposal to lift the long-standing residency requirement, mandating that Milwaukee public workers -- from teachers to firefighters to police officers live in Milwaukee.
It is an issue so strongly felt, it prompted an altercation between Milwaukee police officers and Milwaukee aldermen after the aldermen spoke before the Joint Finance Committee in support of the requirement.
Those who want the measure to remain say if residency is not required, it would have a devastating financial affect on the city of Milwaukee.
"Taxpayers expect us to make sure that monies that we spend create the kind of investments to have steong communities, so when you make an investment in law enforcement and in fire you want to make sure that they are, one, familiar with the community they serve that they take a pledge to protect and to serve but more importantly you want them to invest in the economy. I think $7 million was quoted as the number the city would lose," Lena Taylor (D - Milwaukee) said.
Several Milwaukee police officers told the committee they should have the right to live where they choose.
"These rules are not written in stone. There's families behind these. My children are important to me. The school that I graduated from and I was confident in, now has a rating of one and it's rated one to 10. I cannot send them there. I have to send my children to two different school districts through open enrollment," one Milwaukee police officer said.
"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," another Milwaukee police officer said.
The president of the Milwaukee Police Association supports the removal of the residency requirement, saying it will help recruit officers and keep good officers on the force.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett wants good officers as well, but says the measure is motivated by politics and not Wisconsin's bottom line.
"This is an item that is pure policy and has no impact on the state budget," Mayor Barrett said.
The hearing was set to continue until 6:00 p.m. Thursday. Then, legislators will come up with their own changes to the proposals and a final vote is expected in June.