Wisconsin Local Government Reform Initiatives

The following reports document state-level efforts to reform various aspects of local government in Wisconsin since 1957. Thanks go to Erich Schmidtke and George Hall at the Wisconsin Dept. of Administration and to Rich Eggleston at the Wisconsin Alliance of Cities for their assistance in the effort to compile, gather, scan and summarize the reports. This site is the only place these documents can be found in one place in electronic form.

  • 1956
    Milwaukee Metropolitan Survey Committee – A Report to the Governor of the State of Wisconsin. Governor Kohler appointed a committee to study municipal service problems resulting from the rapid growth of Milwaukee suburbs. Recommendations were made on water supply, sewage disposal, local distribution of state taxes and intergovernmental cooperation.
    Summary (255 kb)
    Full Report (4.4 mb)
  • 1958 - 1961

The Metropolitan Study Commission was created by the Wisconsin State Legislature in 1957 to "investigate the character, extent, adequacy, cost and efficiency of the principal services provided by governmental units..." primarily of the Milwaukee metro area.  The Commission's charter was set to expire in July 1961.  The Commission prepared annual reports to the Governor describing the progress made each year.
1958 What the Metropolitan Study Commission Means to You (278 kb)
1958 Annual Report to the Governor of the Metropolitan Study Commission (2.0 mb)
1959 Annual Report to the Governor of the Metropolitan Study Commission (2.2 mb)
1960 Annual Report to the Governor of the Metropolitan Study Commission (2.8 mb)
1961 Annual Report to the Legislature of the Metropolitan Study Commission (1.5 mb)
1961 Final Report of the Metropolitan Study Commission "Metropolitan Milwaukee: Problems - Solutions" (2.0 mb)
1961 Final Report on Intergovernmental Cooperation in Milwaukee County - Milwaukee Study Commission (2.2 mb)

  • 1959
    County Government and the Problems of Urban Expansion - a study commissioned by the Wisconsin County Boards Association and prepared by the Bureau of Government, University Extension to analyze the problems confronting County government as a result of the growth and spread of urban population.
    Summary (187 kb)
    Full Report (5.1 mb)
  • 1959
    Metzner Report: Report of the Interim Urban Problems Committee - An Urban Problems Committee was created and attached to the Legislative Council by law in 1957 to address issues of urban expansion. The Committee developed a suite of laws that were adopted in 1959. These are essentially the same municipal incorporation and annexation statutes we have today.
    Summary (400 kb)
    Full Report (11.8 mb)
  • 1969
    Tarr Task Force: The Task Force on Local Government Finance and Operation was created in 1967. 1969 Senate Bill 364 written as outcome of report. Recommended consolidation of smaller units of government, formation of a three-member Boundary Review Board, increase in school aids, new highway aids funded by fee based on value of motor vehicle, single shared revenue formula, system of training assessors funded by real estate transfer fee. This bill did not pass the Assembly.
    Summary (1.39 mb)
    Full Report (3.48 mb)
  • 1970
    Legislative Council established an Interim Committee on Local Government and directed it to review the Tarr Task Force recommendations. This committee recommended legislation substantially the same as the Tarr Task Force bill with the addition of a procedure to encourage local resolution of municipal boundary disputes. The proposals became AB 64, which failed to pass the Assembly.
    Committee Proceedings (12.66 mb)
  • 1972
    Knowles Commission: Wisconsin Land Resources Committee created by Gov. Lucey to study the need for land use reform in Wisconsin. Recommendations include statutory definition of statewide or regional land use concerns, authorize state government to regulate land uses where statewide or regional land use concerns are involved and reimburse local government for costs incurred, state government develop a comprehensive land use information system, implement an effective system of statewide comprehensive land use planning, study the need for innovative measures to guide land use policy, study the effects of property taxes on land use patterns, and study the need to streamline and upgrade local land use controls.
    Summary (699 kb)
    Full Report (12 mb)
    Taxation Sub-Committee Report (824 kb)
  • 1973
    Church Committee: Citizens Study Committee on Metropolitan Problems created by Gov. Lucey to investigate the fairness, adequacy, efficiency, and responsiveness of local metropolitan governments. Recommendations included: Intergovernmental cooperation, regional land use and environmental controls (urban service districts), extend the provision of low-income housing to suburban and rural areas, provide state financial aid for urban problems, decentralization of some local government services, allow Legislature to change county boundaries. The Church committee recommended legislation similar to that proposed by the Tarr Task Force, but no legislation was introduced.
    Summary (426 kb)
    Full Report (8.85 mb)
    Preliminary Report (1972) (8.67 mb)
  • 1977
    Wallace Commission: The Commission on State – Local Relations and Financing Policy - included recommendations on organization of local government and local growth and development. The Commission found that changing technology, population patterns, environmental concerns, and local demands for governmental services, caused numerous problems for and among local governments. The Commission recommended local units of government be strengthened and provided greater flexibility and autonomy in meeting their responsibilities. Counties should play a greater role in meeting area-wide needs that cut across local government jurisdictions. State should have a comprehensive land-use and boundary adjustment policy. Reaffirms support for equalization of fiscal capacity and equalization of ability to pay tax burden.
    Summary (1.38 mb)
    Full Report (11.4 mb)
  • 1982
    Kirby Committee: Special Committee on Interrelationship of Urban and Rural Policies. The committee recommended legislation which was substantially the same as many of the Wallace Commission proposals. The legislation died in committee.
    Committee Proceedings (1.68 mb)
  • 1990
    Legislative Council’s Special Committee on Municipal Boundaries and Related Issues
    Committee Proceedings (14.7 mb)
  • 1994
    Legislative Council’s Special Committee on Shared Governmental Services
    Committee Proceedings (10.6 mb)
  • 1995
    SAVE Commission: Commission for the Study of Administrative Value and Efficiency identified 22 wide-ranging goals for improving government efficiency, cutting waste, regulating land use, and improving the economy and education. William Cronon, Professor of History, Geography and Environmental Studies submitted a separate report as his testimony entitled Planning Another Century of Good Government – The Wisconsin Idea in the 21st Century. Cronon’s testimony is notable for its historical review of government reform efforts.
    Summary (229 kb)
    Full Report (5.14 mb)
    William Cronon Remarks (841 kb)
  • 1995
    Bugher Interim Report: Wisconsin Strategic Growth Task Force. This Task Force laid the groundwork for the formation of the Land Use Council by collecting information about the physical and attitudinal changes impacting Wisconsin’s landscape. The report includes trends, an inventory of government land use tools, a description of intergovernmental relationships, shortcomings and strengths of land use decision-making in Wisconsin, a summary of public attitudes, comparison of land use programs in other states and a summary of issues and options.
    Summary (317 kb)
    Volume 1 (7.94 mb)
    Volume 2 (6.31 mb)
    Comparison of Land Use Programs in Other States (841 kb)
  • 1996
    Bugher Land Use Council Report: Planning Wisconsin – Report of the Interagency Land Use Council. Proposed the creation of a permanent interagency land use council, construct a land information system, an inventory of the land use policies of all state and federal agencies and native tribes, establish a land use information clearinghouse, directly support local government planning, create a land use library, and develop dispute resolution options.
    Summary (1.39 mb)
    Summary of Planning and Land Use Statutes (279 kb)
    Full Report (8.24 mb)
    Reform of State Planning Statutes – A Bibliography (29 kb)
  • 2001
    Kettl Commission: Commission on State-Local Partnerships – Recommendations included reforms to the education system (Badger Basics), reforms to the municipal shared revenue program, e-government, and re-engineering government services. The commission also recommended a new office for state-local partnerships that could serve as dispute resolution role in mediating agreements between local governments.
    Summary (23 kb)
    Full Report (911 kb)
  • 2003
    Sheehy Commission: Task Force on State and Local Government. Made six major recommendations – authorize regional tax base sharing, modernize TIF to meet metropolitan and rural needs, link shared revenue to state budget, correct the shared revenue formula to support basic service equity, shared revenue formula to support service sharing, and deliver public services through functional service lines.
    Summary (106 kb)
    Full Report (194 kb)
  • 2011

​Governor's Commission on Waste, Fraud and Abuse report addresses a number of areas for opportunities to improve the efficiency of state & local government.  Those areas include:

  • Integrity of Public Assistance Programs
  • Overtime Rules and Payroll Management
  • Lean Government Initiative
  • State vs Contract Engineers
  • Local Government Shared Services