Despite Calling Medicaid Expansion Funds Unreliable, State Lawmakers Rely on Other ObamaCare Funds

Tuesday, September 2, 2014 at 4:19 PM by

In the Wisconsin debate about whether to accept federal funding for expanding BadgerCare, there has been little attention paid to a significant inconsistency used in the arguments made by many opponents of using those funds. They contend that it would be risky to pay for newly-eligible childless adults with the increased federal Medicaid funds set aside by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for that purpose; however, their alternative plan (which is much more expensive for state taxpayers) relies on another source of ACA funds. 

We learned about two weeks ago that expanding BadgerCare to 87,000 additional low-income adults and accepting federal Medicaid funding would have saved state taxpayers $206 million in this biennium, and could yield even larger savings in the next biennium. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel used that news in a strongly worded editorial criticizing the Governor for “sacrificing good policy on the altar of expedient politics” when his budget bill turned down the increased federal Medicaid funding provided by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Read more

The 58,000 Job Question

Monday, September 1, 2014 at 10:59 AM by

 New Report Takes Comprehensive Look at Weaknesses, Strengths of Wisconsin’s Labor Market

Wisconsin’s economy is adding jobs at a slow pace, wage growth has stalled, and many workers don’t have the security and opportunity they need to get ahead, according to a new Labor Day report released from the Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS).

The report, “The State of Working Wisconsin, 2014,” provides a thorough examination of Wisconsin job numbers, wages, poverty, and job quality.

The information on Wisconsin job growth that is included in this report is helpful in deciphering the claims of political candidates who have helped bring a great deal of attention to jobs figures. The report notes that in many ways the hardships for Wisconsin workers mirror the troubles in the national economy. But beginning in 2011, rates of job growth in Wisconsin have fallen behind the national average:

“From January 2011 to June 2014, Wisconsin gained 109,200 jobs, posting growth in the labor market of 4.0 percent.

Read more

Categories: Blog, jobs | Comments (0)

State Tax Collections Fall Far Short of Projections

Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 3:21 PM by

$281 Million Revenue Shortfall in 2013-14 Will Mean a Big Jump in the Structural Deficit

State lawmakers got bad budget news today, when the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) released state tax collection figures showing that revenue collections fell $281 million (2.0%) short of projections during the fiscal year that ended on June 30.  Rather than growing by 1% as anticipated, state tax collections fell by 1%, and that will cause a substantial jump in the state’s structural deficit.

State lawmakers banked on revenue growth when they wrote the state’s two-year budget and followed up with additional tax cuts.  It’s not clear at this point what will result from a substantial revenue shortfall, but one potential outcome is the state could face a new round of damaging budget cuts.  What makes the state’s new budget challenge very disappointing is that it could have been easily avoided if lawmakers hadn’t rushed early this year to use every bit of increased revenue projections for another round of tax cuts, without setting funds aside for an adequate budget cushion. Read more

This Fall, Wisconsin Students Are Heading Back to Crowded Classrooms

Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 10:37 AM by

Classroom sizes in Wisconsin have increased substantially in recent years, according to a new analysis from the Wisconsin Budget Project.   

Wisconsin still has fewer students per teacher than the national average, but our rank has been dropping. In 2004-05, Wisconsin ranked 18th among the states in the number of students per teacher. By 2011-12, Wisconsin’s ranking had dropped to 30th.

student teacher ratio                     

Wisconsin had 1.2 more students per teacher in 2011-12 than in 2004-05; nationally, schools averaged an increase of just 0.2 students per teacher of this period. Only three states  – California, Arizona, and Nevada – had larger increases in student-teacher ratios than Wisconsin over this period, according to the analysis.

One of the things making Wisconsin’s class size trend worrisome is that poverty has increased very substantially in our state over the last decade. Low-income children often need more help from their teachers, and schools can’t adequately respond to that increased need when ratio of students to teachers is growing.  Read more

Revenue Watch: Anxiously Awaiting the 2013-14 Tax Numbers

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 at 5:46 PM by

For the past month or so I’ve been scratching my head wondering when we would get an update from the WI Department of Revenue on state tax collections during the fiscal year that ended on June 30th.  I’m not the only one who has been anxiously awaiting those numbers; four Democrats in the state Senate sent a letter yesterday to Secretary Huebsch asking when the FY 2013-14 revenue numbers will be released. 

The letter signed by Senators Larson, Hansen, Shilling and Wirch notes that “last year the June numbers were released on August 23rd.”  (You can see that DOR press release here.)  The letter adds:

“Given the numbers we’ve seen to date, the delay is already fueling concern that they will show a revenue shortfall.  How significant that shortfall is could have a wide ranging impact not only on future budgets but the current budget as well.” 

I share the concern about the potential for a revenue shortfall.  Read more

New Evidence that the Rich Have Prospered while the Poor Got Poorer

Monday, August 25, 2014 at 9:04 AM by

We got more evidence last week that rich Americans are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.  A new report released August 21st by the Census Bureau shows not only that the top 20% of Americans have been enjoying most of the economic gains over the last decade, but the median net worth of most Americans has actually decreased (for those in the bottom, second and middle quintiles).  The following graph illustrates that trend. 

Wealth gap growing

Coincidentally, the new report was released a day or two after Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan told a reporter at the Weekly Standard that cutting tax rates for the wealthy is a higher priority than raising the child tax credit for middle class and low-income Americans.  (Read the Weekly Standard blog post here.)   

The new Census Bureau analysis divides American households into five quintiles and calculates the median net worth for each quintile, and how that changed from 2000 through 2011. Read more

Wisconsin Women Twice as Likely as Men to Hold a Low-Wage Job

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 1:06 PM by

Women are vastly-overrepresented in jobs that pay low wages, in Wisconsin and across the country, according to a new report from the National Women’s Law Center.

Women’s educational attainment and work experience have increased dramatically in recent decades, but they are still far more likely than men to work at low-wage jobs, which are defined in the report as jobs that pay $10.10 an hour or less. In Wisconsin, 1 in 5 women work in low-wage jobs – adding up to nearly a quarter of a million workers. In contrast, only about 1 in 12 men in Wisconsin work in low wage jobs. Put another way, Wisconsin women are 2.3 times as likely as Wisconsin men to work for low wages.

Many women who work in low-wage jobs are parents, according to the report. Nearly one-third of women nationally who work at low-wage jobs are mothers, and nearly half of these mothers are single. Read more

Wisconsin Taxpayers Would Save Even More than Expected by Expanding BadgerCare, New Figures Show

Monday, August 18, 2014 at 9:29 AM by

Expanding BadgerCare coverage to all adults below 138% of the federal poverty level (FPL) would save significantly more money for state taxpayers than previously estimated. According to a memo prepared last week by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB), expanding BadgerCare but would save state taxpayers an estimated $206 million during the 2013-15 biennium, compared to current law, but would cover 87,000 more adults than the state now expects to insure via BadgerCare at the end of the current fiscal year. That savings is $87 million more than the LFB calculated when the budget bill was being debated. 

To put this news a little differently, by rejecting federal funding that would finance the full cost of providing BadgerCare to all newly eligible adults up to 138% of FPL, state lawmakers cost Wisconsin taxpayers $206 million in the current biennium and far more than that in the next biennial budget. One of the things making this news particularly significant is that the Department of Health Services estimated in late June that the state is facing a $93 million GPR deficit in the Medicaid budget. Read more

To Reduce Income Inequality and Boost Economic Growth, Make sure every Student has an Opportunity to Attend College

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 at 1:15 PM by

Rising levels of income inequality are acting as a drag on the U.S. economy, but we can counter the economic harm by expanding opportunities to attend college, according to a new report from Standard & Poor’s, a financial services company.

Here’s the crux of the report, in a sentence:

Our review of the data, as well as a wealth of research on this matter, leads us to conclude that the current level of income inequality in the U.S. is dampening GDP growth, at a time when the world’s biggest economy is struggling to recover from the Great Recession and the government is in need of funds to support an aging population.

Pretty clear, right? Prominent policymakers, including President Obama, have warned time and again that high levels of income inequality are slowing economic growth. This report adds something new to the conversation in that it represents the viewpoint of a private sector company, and could be an indication that the business community is starting to view income inequality as a problem. Read more

Categories: Blog, EDUCATION, income inequality, JOBS & THE ECONOMY, UW | Comments Off

Corporations to ALEC: Stop Us before We Extort Again

Monday, August 11, 2014 at 6:00 AM by

Conservatives Critique “Tax Cronyism,” and Progressives Critique the ALEC Report

I was pleasantly surprised to learn recently that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has issued a report calling on policymakers to end the wasteful subsidies given to corporations by state and local governments.  Their report titled The Unseen Costs of Tax Cronyism: Favoritism and Foregone Growth criticizes special tax breaks for certain companies, which it points out tend to increase the tax burden on other companies and put them at a competitive disadvantage.

Corporations are very good at extorting costly subsidies from state and local officials, but some of those corporations and a growing number of policymakers are realizing that these incentives aren’t an effective way to promote economic growth.  As WCCF intern Jelicia Diggs wrote in a recent WI Budget Project blog post, a number of businesses in the Kansas City area have prevailed on Missouri legislators to call a ceasefire to the use of incentives for pirating corporations across the border with Kansas.  Read more