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

New Report: How Wisconsin Lawmakers Have Broken with Tradition and Undermined a Legacy of Investment

Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at 11:26 AM by

Four years ago Wisconsin was made a promise. The promise was that the best way to generate economic growth was through significant tax and spending cuts. The tax and spending cuts have occurred, but unfortunately for all of us, the promised job growth has not.

That’s the conclusion of a new Budget Project report released today, called “Breaking with Tradition: How Wisconsin Lawmakers Have Shortchanged a Legacy of Investment in the State’s Future.” The new report reviews the many changes policymakers have made recently in how Wisconsin supports it schools, communities, and workforce.

Lawmakers have made dramatic tax cuts since 2011, totaling $1.9 billion over four years. But the value of the tax cuts was not equitably distributed. Half the value of the major tax cuts packages in 2013 and 2014 went to the top 20% of taxpayers by income, and the remaining 80% shared the other half.

The tax cuts have contributed to deep cuts to public schools and higher education in Wisconsin. Read more

Categories: Blog, jobs, JOBS & THE ECONOMY, STATE BUDGET, STATE TAXES, taxes | Comments Off

What’s Causing the Unexpected Decline in BadgerCare Coverage of Kids?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014 at 5:47 PM by

Advocates Seek DHS Help in Understanding the Decline

There have been a couple of big surprises in the recent data relating to BadgerCare.  One is the much greater-than-anticipated increase in the enrollment of adults without dependent children. (Read more here.)  The other is that the number of kids covered by BadgerCare has been decreasing, at a time when the budget bill assumed there would be a large increase.

A new WCCF fact sheet shows the BadgerCare enrollment trends since last September (and since the beginning of 2014), which are broken out for different categories of coverage and income levels. Here are two of the key findings relating to coverage of children:

  • The number of children over the poverty level who are enrolled in BadgerCare and Transitional Medicaid (TMA) has dropped by more than 22,000 (12.5%) since September of last year.
  • That decline has been partially offset by an increase of almost 13,500 children below the poverty level, yielding a net loss of more than 8,600 kids in BadgerCare and Transitional Medicaid.
  • Read more

Governor’s Guidance Gives Hints of What’s to come in Next Budget

Thursday, July 31, 2014 at 10:09 AM by

Governor Walker has given state agencies guidance on how to develop their proposals for Wisconsin’s next budget, giving some glimpses into what the state’s 2015-17 budget might bring. 

Wisconsin has a two-year budget. The budget process starts in the summer of even numbered years – like now — when the Governor instructs agencies in how to develop budget requests. Agencies submit their requests to the executive branch by September 15, and the Governor takes the requests into consideration when developing his own budget proposal to submit to the Legislature. The Governor is expected to release his budget proposal in the early part of 2015. For more about the Wisconsin state budget cycle, check the Wisconsin Budget Project’s Budget Toolkit.

For the upcoming budget, Governor Walker recently instructed agencies to assume there will be zero growth in General Purpose Revenue (GPR) appropriations in each fiscal year. In other words, he wants agencies to submit budget requests that are not any higher their budgets were two years ago, even though inflation and other factors have pushed costs up.  Read more

Paul Ryan’s New Poverty Plan Focuses on Opportunity, but Comes up Short

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 at 4:09 PM by

Paul Ryan has a released a new poverty plan that advocates consolidating federal safety net programs and turning the money over to the states. It’s always worth taking a look at changes that could make anti-poverty program more effective, but Ryan’s approach would decrease opportunity for individuals living in poverty, not increase it.

Ryan frames his new proposal as aimed at giving low-income people the tools they need to make ends meet and lift themselves out of poverty. According to his proposal, Expanding Opportunity in America:

“A key tenet of the American Dream is that where you start off shouldn’t determine where you end up. If you work hard and play by the rules, you should get ahead. But the fact is, far too many people are stuck on the lower rungs…There are many factors beyond public policy that affect upward mobility. But public policy is still a factor, and government has a role to play in providing a safety net and expanding opportunity for all.”

Ryan believes that a fundamental redesign of how federal anti-poverty programs deliver services can help expand opportunity across the board. Read more