Low-paid workers in various locations across the country got a raise this month, as increases in the minimum wage took effect in several states, counties, and cities. However, workers in Wisconsin were not among those benefitting from an increase in the minimum wage.
Locations with increases in the minimum wage include:
- Oregon, where the minimum wage increased to $9.75 per hour in urban counties and $9.50 in rural counties. The minimum will gradually increase to $12.50 to $14.75 depending on the county in 2022.
- Maryland, where the lowest-paid hourly workers now earn at least $8.75 an hour. Maryland’s minimum wage is set to slowly increase to $10.10 in 2018.
- Los Angeles, where low-paid workers will now get at least $10.50 an hour – and six days of paid leave a year. The minimum wage in Los Angeles is set to increase gradually to $15 per hour in 2020.
- Chicago, where workers will now earn at least $10.50 an hour.
Reduced Participation Provides Opportunity and Reason to Streamline Enrollment Procedures
Members of the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee got some very good news last Friday in the form of a quarterly report on the state Medicaid budget from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS). The letter from the interim Secretary of DHS indicates that the agency now estimates that Medicaid spending during the 2015-17 biennium will be $418.6 million below the amount lawmakers anticipated when they passed the budget bill a year ago.
The portion of Medicaid spending specifically from state General Purpose Revenue (GPR) is projected to be almost $176 million (3.1%) less than the budget bill set aside. That’s an improvement of $90.6 million GPR since the last projection was made three months ago.
These numbers from DHS are very good news at a time when state revenue projections haven’t been very good. The reduced growth in Medicaid spending improves the prospects for keeping the total state budget in the black – without resorting to additional remedial measures (beyond the delay in debt payments that the Governor already implemented). Read more
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.
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
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
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%).
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
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
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
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