Residency Rules

Thomas Hawk, Flickr

 The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Milwaukee can no longer enforce its residency requirement. The court decided 5-2 that the city's long-standing requirement that city workers also live in Milwaukee violates state law. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is furious, and says the state legislature, the governor's office, and the Supreme Court have all thumbed their nose at the concept of local control. 

Thomas Hawk, flickr

On Wednesday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court listened to arguments about residency rules, and the outcome will determine whether Milwaukee police officers, fire fighters and other city employees can move outside the city limits.

For more than 75 years, Milwaukee required its workers to live here, but in 2013, the Legislature outlawed residency rules. Since then, each side has won a legal battle, and now the issue is before the court of last resort.


The City of Milwaukee has clarified its position on whether its employees must live within city limits, at this time.

The City issued a statement Friday in response to last month’s Wisconsin Court of Appeals decision, which ruled that Milwaukee can require its workers to live in the city – despite the fact that the budget Gov. Scott Walker approved two years ago ended the mandate. The police union, which opposes the residency requirement, has asked the state Supreme Court to take up the decision.

The City's statement reads, in part:

Jeramey Jannene, flickr

For 75 years, Milwaukee required its employees to live within city limits. The state budget Gov. Scott Walker approved two years ago banned the mandate. An appeals court ruled Tuesday that the city’s rule trumps state law.

In 2013, Walker said he wanted to end the residency requirement because he felt “strongly that people should have the freedom to choose.” Walker referred to the Milwaukee mandate as a wall designed to keep in employees. He insisted it was not key to the city’s success.

The City of Milwaukee may not force public workers to live here but might pay them more, if they do. The Common Council approved a resolution Tuesday, to reward employees who live in the city.

The Common Council has voted to continue requiring city workers to live in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee’s mayor says it’s almost as if the state budget goes out of its way to harm the city.

Gov. Walker could wipe out Milwaukee’s long-standing residency requirement this weekend.

Brad Lindert/Flickr

The Joint Finance Committee is supposed to conclude its state budget revisions this week ahead of a full legislative vote this month. Along with tax and spending changes, the budget includes a proposal to lift residency requirements for most public workers.

Many have debated whether that residency rule change will affect services delivered or even harm local communities.

Alan Wolf, flickr

The City of Milwaukee felt several body blows last week, when the Legislature’s Joint Finance committee passed budget provisions directly affecting the city.

Residency Rules: The Detroit Experience

Mar 22, 2011
An abandoned home in Detroit
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

The debate over where city of Milwaukee employees are allowed to live takes center stage at the state Capitol Tuesday. A Senate committee will hold a public hearing on a bill that would do away with the requirement that Milwaukee police officers and fire fighters reside within the city limits. Gov. Scott Walker’s budget would also scrap the residency rule for Milwaukee’s 6,000 public school teachers. More than a decade ago, state lawmakers in Michigan made a similar move, giving city of Detroit workers the freedom to live wherever they want. WUWM’s Erin Toner spoke with a few people about how those changes have impacted the Motor City.