Raising the Overtime Threshold Would Benefit Nearly 1 in 4 Salaried Workers in Wisconsin

Wednesday, September 2, 2015 at 1:51 AM by

Overtime provisions protect some workers who put in long hours, making sure that employees earn extra pay when they work overtime. But many low-paid salaried workers are not eligible to earn overtime pay, making it harder for those workers to climb the economic ladder. That could change under a new proposal that would raise the salary threshold under which workers are considered automatically eligible for overtime pay, a measure that would directly benefit nearly 200,000 workers in Wisconsin.

Current overtime pay rules protect most hourly workers, but leave out many low-paid salaried workers. The Economic Policy Institute explains :

“Salaried workers who earn below $455 per week, or $23,660 per year, are automatically eligible for overtime pay, regardless of the nature of their job or the duties they perform.

Salaried workers whose earnings are $455 per week or more can be exempted from the right to receive overtime if they fall into one of three categories: executives, administrators, and professionals.

Read more

Policy Choices Impede Parents Trying to Escape Poverty

Tuesday, September 1, 2015 at 3:40 PM by

With Labor Day approaching, it’s a good time to reflect on all the families in Wisconsin who are struggling to work their way out of poverty. Unfortunately, many of them are held back by public policy choices made at the state and federal level, as well as changes in the workplace. These obstacles include a stagnant minimum wage, inadequate federal rules on eligibility for overtime, barriers to accessing child care and affordable health care, and the growing use of on-call scheduling of workers.   

When we think of low-wage workers, particularly those making the minimum wage, we often think of teenagers working in the fast-food industry. However, data on earnings for low-income parents paints a very different picture, as does recently updated data on the employment of people participating in BadgerCare.  Read more

Positive News on Revenue, but not for State Reserves

Friday, August 28, 2015 at 6:21 PM by

Wisconsin got some good budget news this week, but our state may once again squander an opportunity to use an upturn in revenue to shore up its meager budget reserves. That’s very disappointing because states should set aside funding when revenue exceeds expectations, in order to have stronger reserves to weather economic downturns. 

The good news this week was that the preliminary estimate of Wisconsin’s actual 2014-15 tax revenue is $71 million (0.5%) more than the last projection, which probably has a lot to do with the fact that national economic growth was stronger than previously estimated in the second quarter of 2015.  Although Wisconsin’s individual income tax revenue fell below the projected level by about $24 million, corporate income tax collections are almost $70 million higher than expected, and sales and excise taxes are about $29 million above the anticipated amounts.  The total is 4.3% above the amount in the prior year, though it falls about $100 million short of the optimistic Department of Revenue projection in November of last year.  Read more

Wisconsin Has a Long Way to Go on Pay Equity

Wednesday, August 26, 2015 at 11:08 AM by

Imagine working 10 weeks each year for free. That’s a good mental exercise today, on Women’s Equality Day, because the income of a typical woman in Wisconsin is comparable to that of man who is making median wages but working without compensation for 10 weeks a year, and the disparity is even greater for minority women. 

Women’s Equality Day is a time to celebrate the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S Constitution 95 years ago, and also an appropriate time to take a look at the progress that has been made in closing gaps between men and women. An analysis of women’s earnings relative to men’s reveals that inequality has lessened significantly in Wisconsin over the last several decades, but a substantial pay gap remains.

The following chart uses Census Bureau data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) to show the ratio of median income for Wisconsin women to the median for men in our state. Read more

Categories: Blog | Comments (0)

Dramatic Changes to Wisconsin’s Public School System Resulted in Loss of Experienced Teachers

Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 2:00 AM by

Teachers in Wisconsin school districts have less experience that they did a few years ago. Most of the loss of teaching experience occurred between the 2011 and 2012 school years, in the aftermath of dramatic changes that lawmakers made to Wisconsin public schools.

Problems with Walker’s Health Care Plan Extend Far beyond Its Changes to the ACA

Wednesday, August 19, 2015 at 8:07 PM by

The health care plan unveiled this week by Governor Walker would undo many years of progress on improving access to quality, affordable health care. My biggest concern initially was that it would reverse most of the gains made over the last 5 years under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, the damage caused by the Governor’s plan would go much further than that, because it would also undo much of the progress that has been made over the last decade or two as many states improved and expanded Medicaid coverage (such as Wisconsin’s creation of BadgerCare in 1999). 

Walker plan

Under Walker’s proposal, millions of adults across the country are likely to lose their Medicaid coverage – as states restrict eligibility in response to the elimination of enhanced federal funding for Medicaid expansions. However, the damage wouldn’t stop there. By block granting Medicaid funding,  states would almost certainly be compelled to dial back eligibility and the scope of services. Read more

Categories: BadgerCare Plus, Blog, health care reform, Medicaid | Comments Off

Continued Focus on Tax Cuts Does Little to Improve Job Growth

Tuesday, August 18, 2015 at 2:26 PM by

Wisconsin lawmakers have passed tax cuts totaling $4.8 billion over six years, according to a new legislative memo released this week. These tax cuts have done little to boost job growth and have forced damaging cuts to Wisconsin’s public schools, universities, and health care system.

Lawmakers have passed dozens of tax cuts since January 2011, including millions of dollars in tax cuts that primarily benefit people with high incomes. And lawmakers aren’t slowing down – the total value of tax cuts has increased each year since fiscal year 2012, and is slated to go even higher, to nearly $1.7 billion per year in the two-year budget period that starts in July 2017.

Among the tax cuts passed since January 2011, according to the memo:

  • A 2013 income tax rate reduction that gave an average tax cut of $1,440 to taxpayers earning over $300,000 but an average of just $86 for taxpayers who earn under $100,000.
  • Read more

A National Victory for Transparency in State and Local Budgeting

Friday, August 14, 2015 at 5:35 PM by

New standards will substantially improve public access to important information about budget choices made at the state and local level. Because of the historic changes in accounting standards, state and local governments will soon have to report how much revenue they lose to corporate tax breaks given for economic development.

Cutting Taxes by Increasing Spending & Phasing in Tax Cuts

Thursday, August 13, 2015 at 11:38 AM by

If you look at a new memo from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) that itemizes the tax and fee changes in the biennial budget bill, you wouldn’t know that the net effect of the bill is to cut taxes. The fact that the budget bill does cut taxes isn’t obvious in the latest LFB document for a couple of reasons: 

  • First, the LFB memo summarizes the state-level tax changes and doesn’t examine the reductions in local property taxes that result from increases in state spending for property tax relief and restrictions on local spending. 
  • Second, the bill uses short-term tax increases to provide a temporary offset to larger long-term tax cuts (and the latter are beyond the two-year time horizon of the LFB analysis). 
  • Read more

Categories: Blog, income taxes, property tax, STATE TAXES, taxes | Comments Off

Number of Uninsured Drops Sharply in 2014 and 2015

Tuesday, August 11, 2015 at 3:04 PM by

Preliminary Figures Suggest Strong Improvement in Wisconsin 

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has dramatically reduced the number of uninsured adults, according to new data released by Gallup this week. A nationwide poll of about 88,000 people during the first 6 months of 2015 found that the percentage of adults who were uninsured dropped to 11.7% this year, compared to 13.4% in the second and third quarters of 2014 and 17.3% in 2013. More specifically, the uninsured rate among adults was 11.9% in the first quarter of 2015 and fell to just 11.4% during the second quarter. 

The Gallup polling also includes state-level data, and those figures show especially large improvements in insurance coverage in the states that have expanded Medicaid and have embraced the ACA. The seven states with the largest percentage point gains in coverage (AR, KY, OR, RI, WA, CA, & WV) are all states that have expanded Medicaid and have state-run health insurance marketplaces.  Read more