Runaway Tax Cut a Windfall for Millionaires

Tuesday, June 28, 2016 at 7:45 AM by

A new tax break that has cost much more than originally anticipated has resulted in enormous tax breaks for the very wealthiest, according to a new report from the Wisconsin Budget Project.

The Manufacturing and Agriculture Credit nearly wipes out state income tax liability for manufacturers and agricultural producers in Wisconsin, with most of the money winding up in the pockets of millionaires. Tax filers with incomes of $1 million and more – a group that makes up just 0.2% of all filers – claim a remarkable 78% of the credit amount that is paid through the individual income tax. Filers in that income group receive an average estimated tax break of nearly $28,000. That stands in sharp contrast to the average tax cut for filers with incomes of under $250,000: just $4.

Tax break is a windfall for millionaires

Other than millionaires, few people in Wisconsin get any value from this tax break. Among filers with incomes of $1 million and more, 1 out of every 4 tax filers receives the credit. Read more

Ryan Health Plan Could Be Double Trouble for Former BadgerCare Participants

Monday, June 27, 2016 at 8:00 AM by

If Ryan Plan Passes, Continuation of BadgerCare Changes Would Amount to a “Bait and Switch”

A health care plan introduced last week by Speaker Ryan would roll back many of the improvements in health care that have been achieved over the past several years. It would reverse much of the huge increase in the number of people with insurance, undermine improvements in access to preventive health care services, and raise costs for many people with insurance.

I could go on at length about problems with the plan, but I want to focus now on an important Wisconsin angle – how the Ryan plan would adversely affect many of the 60,000 low-income working parents that state lawmakers removed from BadgerCare two years ago. Many aspects of the Ryan plan would compound the difficulties those parents are already coping with because of the policy choices in Wisconsin, and would take away what they were promised when the state ended their BadgerCare coverage. Read more

Despite Jobs Growth, State Revenue Falls in May

Monday, June 20, 2016 at 7:08 PM by

Wisconsin got a very positive jobs report last week, but the apparent good news from the preliminary May data did not carry over to last month’s tax collections. As a result, the state may finish the current fiscal year well below the revenue target included in the budget bill – creating a more precarious situation in the second half of the 2015-17 biennial budget.

The Department of Revenue released the May tax collections figures at about 4:00 on Friday, June 17. As is often the case when those numbers are released late on a Friday, the news wasn’t good.  The new DOR figures show the following:

  • Tax collections fell by $17.5 million (1.5%) in May, relative to the amount in May 2015.
  • Although sales tax collections increased by $25 million compared to the same month of 2015, individual income tax revenue dropped by 6.3% ($31.5 million) last month, and corporate income tax revenue was off by $8.5 million (almost 35%).
Read more

A Missed Opportunity to Learn from Wisconsin’s Health Reform Implementation

Tuesday, June 14, 2016 at 12:56 PM by

National Health Policy Expert Critiques State’s Narrow Evaluation of BadgerCare Changes

Wisconsin received a federal waiver to make significant changes to BadgerCare in 2014, and one of the conditions of that “demonstration waiver” was that the state would evaluate the effects of the policy changes. A national health policy expert, Sara Rosenbaum, reviewed the planned evaluation and in a blog post last week wrote that the analysis designed by state officials fails to address several of the key aspects of the policy changes being implemented in our state. Read more

The Growing Strain on Public Health Department Budgets

Thursday, June 9, 2016 at 2:18 PM by

Wisconsin Is Third Lowest Nationally in Total Spending for Public Health

Concerns about the threats posed by the Zika virus have generated debate in Congress about funding for public health and have drawn attention to the importance of public health systems. That makes this a very appropriate time to also look at the funding for our state and local public health departments.

In Wisconsin, as in other states, we expect a lot from the public health system. However, we generally take that system for granted, and Wisconsin has one of the most poorly funded public health systems in the nation.

A recent report by the Trust for America’s Health (Investing in America’s health: a state-by-state look at public health funding and key health facts) compares the total spending level for public health in each state in 2015, and it also ranks states by the public health funding from a variety of sources. Read more

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Opponents of BadgerCare Expansion Miss the Mark on Cost Concerns

Wednesday, June 1, 2016 at 2:02 PM by

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) has calculated that expanding BadgerCare and thereby qualifying for a higher federal reimbursement rate would yield huge savings for Wisconsin.

The most recent LFB analysis, issued last December, examined the effects of boosting the BadgerCare income limit for adults to 133 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) from 100 percent of FPL now (which amounts to just $7.70 per hour for single parent with one child). The LFB concluded:

  • Initiating that change in January 2016 would have saved state taxpayers $323.5 million during the 2015-17 biennial budget period, while covering an additional 83,000 adults.
  • The state would have netted nearly $1 billion in savings over a six-year period!
  • A one-year delay in the expansion would reduce the savings by $236 million, but Wisconsin would still save an average of more than $15 million per month once the change took effect.

Opponents of expansion haven’t directly challenged those estimates. Read more

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School Meals Are Important to Students During Summer Months, Too

Tuesday, May 31, 2016 at 8:23 AM by

Summer is almost here, and children will be out of school – but many of them will still have access to free or reduced-price meals through a program that helps students get their nutritional needs met during the summer months.

Students participating in summer school, summer camps, sports or pre-college programs run by colleges or universities, and certain other summer activities can get free or reduced-price school meals thanks to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program. During summer 2015, Wisconsin children were served 2.8 million free or reduced-price meals at 872 different locations.

Free and reduced-price school meals are an important way to help make sure that all students have the nourishment they need in order to succeed, regardless of family income. It’s difficult for students to reach their full potential if they have to worry about where their next meal is coming from. Making sure that students get the meals they need during the summer helps facilitate summer learning and also helps make sure that students come back in the fall ready to study. Read more

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Wisconsin Made Second Largest Cut this Year in Support for Higher Education

Friday, May 27, 2016 at 12:35 PM by

Tech. College Funding Shift Masks 25 Percent Cut in Higher Ed Support Since 2008

Wisconsin cut state support for higher education by 8.3 percent this year, or $603 per student. As the following graph illustrates, only Arizona cut state funding for higher education by a larger percentage. 

In contrast to Wisconsin, most states have been taking advantage of the national economic recovery to increase support for higher education and restore some of the funding cut during the recession. The bar graph from a new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) shows that Wisconsin was one of just 11 states that cut its support for higher education in the current fiscal year, relative to fiscal year 2015, and almost all of the other cuts were far smaller. Read more

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Federal Change Offers Opportunity to Reduce Severe Health Disparities for Native Americans

Wednesday, May 18, 2016 at 1:25 PM by

A change in federal Medicaid policy announced in February creates an exciting opportunity to improve health care for Native Americans. It’s an opportunity that Wisconsin tribes and state officials should seize in order to help alleviate the extreme disparities in health between Native Americans and whites in Wisconsin.

The revised interpretation of Medicaid reimbursement policy expands the scope of health care services for Native Americans that are fully paid for by the federal government, without the usual requirement for state matching funds. In the past, the federal government paid 100% of the cost of Medicaid services provided directly by Indian Health Services (IHS), but not for health care provided outside of IHS facilities. Under the new policy, federal funding will also cover the full cost of Medicaid services delivered to American Indians by providers under contract with IHS, if IHS or a tribal practitioner refers the Medicaid patient and continues to oversee their care. Read more

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