An overwhelming majority of Wisconsin residents think schools are doing a good job and favor increasing state support to K-12 schools in the next budget, a new poll by Marquette University shows.
Eighty percent of poll respondents said they want the state to dedicate additional resources to schools in the next budget, with just 17% opposing such a measure. That represents a strikingly large majority of Wisconsin residents who want to see legislators make K-12 schools a priority as the budget moves forward.
House Changes Make a Terrible Bill Even Worse
The House bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) goes far beyond changing that law. Without so much as a single public hearing, the bill being voted on by the House this week also makes radical changes to the structure of the Medicaid program that provides health care coverage for about one-fifth of Americans.
The bill would impose an arbitrary cap on federal Medicaid funding, thereby shifting costs to states, health care providers, communities, and those who can least afford it. It would dismantle Medicaid’s flexible financing structure that has protected children, families, individuals with disabilities and seniors during economic downturns or when our state faced increased health care costs due to natural disasters or public health emergencies.
Rather than providing states with more flexibility, this financial restructuring would give Washington D.C. more control over Wisconsin because federal politicians would be able to lower the amount they send our state to support Medicaid. Read more
Wisconsin lawmakers have introduced a resolution calling for a Constitutional convention, a course of action that could ultimately jeopardize basic principles enshrined in the U.S. Constitution if enough states pass similar resolutions.
The resolution (SJR 18, introduced in the Wisconsin State Senate on March 16, 2017) asks Congress to assemble a convention to consider amendments to the U.S. Constitution related to federal spending. The resolution is co-sponsored by 12 Senators, out of 33 total State Senators, and 40 Representatives, out of 99 total.
With Wisconsin’s resolution now introduced in the legislature, the once-seemingly implausible idea of a Constitutional Convention has moved a little closer. The U.S. Constitution specifies that a convention to amend the Constitution may be called by Congress if two-thirds of the states pass resolutions calling for one. Proponents of a convention say that 28 states of the 34 needed have passed resolutions – although the process for determining what states should be included in that total is not clear, and Congress is the final arbiter as to whether the threshold has been reached. Read more
Wisconsin is near average in many measures of government revenue and spending, according to figures for 2014 that were recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s nothing new, as Wisconsin has been near the middle of the pack for about a decade now.
- Wisconsin state and local governments ranked 24th among the states in the amount of taxes, fees, and other charges that they collect from state residents on a per-person basis, and 21st when that amount is measured as a share of personal income.
- Wisconsin ranks 25th in total government spending per person and also 25th when the amount is measured as a share of income.
There are many different ways to measure public revenue and spending, and Wisconsin ranked very close to the middle in nearly all of them, with two exceptions:
- Wisconsin ranked 16th in the share of income that governments collect from state residents in taxes.
State lawmakers in Wisconsin are seeking to pass a resolution that calls for a convention to make drastic changes to the U.S. Constitution. If enough states join this effort, delegates to such a convention could have wide-ranging authority to make amendments to the constitution with very little in the way of external controls on what they are enabled to do.
The idea of a Constitutional Convention sounds far-fetched. After all, the last time there was a similar convention was in 1787, when delegates who were charged with amending the Articles of Confederation instead wrote an entirely new government document. But groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are pushing for a convention, and in the past few years several states have adopted resolutions calling for one. Resolutions in 34 states are needed for a convention to be called, and so far 29 states have passed some version of a resolution. Read more
Weaker Carrots & Different Sticks = Huge Increase in the Uninsured
The House plan to the repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is having the strange effect of uniting an extremely broad range of federal lawmakers. The plan that was unveiled Monday evening seems to be opposed not only by all the Democrats, but also by the most Conservative Republicans, like the members of the “Freedom Caucus,” and by a number of more moderate Republicans in Medicaid expansion states.
But notwithstanding the broad opposition, it appears that the new 400-page bill will be voted on in two different House committees on Wednesday. What’s particularly alarming is that those committees will vote on the bill without waiting for the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of the effects on the federal budget and on the number of Americans who have health insurance. Two committees will cast their votes without knowing whether the bill adds up and without adequately assessing the potential damage to health insurance access and affordability. Read more
Missed Opportunity: Proposed Performance Measures for UW System Won’t do Much to Open Doors for Underserved Students
Governor Walker has proposed a modest increase in state support to the UW System in the 2017-19 budget period, with the additional resources to be distributed among campuses based on how well they score on a certain set of criteria. Those measures could penalize institutions that have been most effective in enrolling underrepresented students and provide a disincentive for campuses to admit low-income students, first-generation students, or other students who may take longer to graduate.
Wisconsin is one of several states moving to outcomes-based funding as a way of distributing some higher education funding among institutions. In his budget proposal, Governor Walker proposed adding $43 million over two years in new funding for the UW System, to be distributed among the institutions using the following set of criteria:
- Affordability and attainability of degrees (used to distribute 30% of the performance-based funding);
- Student success in the workforce (30%);
- Student work readiness (15%);
- Operational efficiency (10%);
- Outreach (5%); and
- Two additional criteria to be set by the Board of Regents (10%).
Governor Walker has proposed significantly increasing state support for public schools, but the bulk of the increase would be distributed to school districts in a way that does not take into account the challenges faced by districts with high numbers of students coming from families with low incomes.
We don’t yet have the full details on what the Governor is proposing for the state’s education budget, but he released a brief summary earlier this week. His budget proposal includes additional funding at aimed addressing the challenges of rural schools, increasing student achievement in summer school programs in Milwaukee, and helping school districts connect students with disabilities to employment. (Read more about his education proposals in this AP article: Walker Proposes Big $649 Million Boost for K-12 Schools.)
By far the biggest component of the education proposal is an increase in the amount of financial support that the state provides to school districts. Read more
Federal policy guidelines that were adjusted for inflation last week are worth examining because they help illustrate the challenges faced by low-income working families. They show, for example, that single parents with one child are currently ineligible for BadgerCare if they have a full-time job that pays more than $7.81 per hour!
The federal poverty guidelines are updated early each year, and the 2017 guidelines that were issued on January 31 increase the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) by 1.3%. That raises eligibility for many federal benefit programs, such as Medicaid, food stamps and child care subsidies. An updated table on the Wisconsin Budget Project website shows what the poverty level is for different family sizes and how that affects eligibility for different public benefits. It also translates the annual poverty level figures into monthly and hourly incomes. Read more
A tax break that has cost far more than originally anticipated has resulted in enormous tax breaks for a wealthy few, according to a new analysis from the Wisconsin Budget Project.
The Manufacturing and Agriculture Credit nearly wipes out state income tax liability for manufacturers and agricultural producers in Wisconsin. Only about three out of every thousand individual income tax filers receive this tax break, but in 2017 alone the credit will cost the state $299 million in reduced revenue. Looking ahead, the cost of the credit swells even more, ballooning to more than $650 million for the upcoming two-year budget period that starts in July 2017.
The cost of this tax cut has taken lawmakers by surprise. In fact, the credit is now estimated to cost more than double what lawmakers originally thought when the amendment creating the credit was quietly slipped into the 2011-13 budget bill.
Nearly all the value of the tax break goes to the very wealthy. Read more