Governor Walker’s proposal to overhaul the state’s civil service system for state employees has been in the news recently, but missing from the conversation is the fact that Wisconsin has significantly fewer state employees and smaller payrolls than most states. If one of the goals of making changes to Wisconsin’s civil service system is to ensure that Wisconsin’s state government runs efficiently, advocates for the changes should know that Wisconsin already has a lean state government with relatively low costs.
The proposed changes to the state’s civil service system would loosen hiring and firing requirements for state employees, lengthen the probation period for new state employees, and eliminate bumping rights for more senior employees. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel describes some of the changes:
“The changes include dropping the exams that job candidates for state government are often required to take in favor of a résumé system and better defining the “just cause” definition of fireable offense such as stealing from the state or showing up to work drunk.
A national survey of small business leaders reveals that they overwhelmingly believe that state economic development incentives favor big businesses, and they say small businesses interests in economic development are not well represented in their state capitols.
The survey of 41 leaders of small business organizations representing 24,000 member businesses in 25 states found they think that states are overspending on large individual deals and that state incentive programs are not effectively meeting the needs of small businesses seeking to grow. Almost three-fourths (72%) do not believe their state’s current incentive policies are effective in promoting economic growth.
Congress has a chance this fall to save key provisions of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC), two proven pro-work strategies that help working families make ends meet and provide the basics for their children.
If Congress does not act, 158,000 Wisconsin families with 301,000 children will lose some or all of their working-family tax credits, according to a new analysis by the Wisconsin Budget Project.
There is an effort underway in Congress to make several temporary corporate tax provisions permanent, and the debate is expected to come to a head this fall. Some federal lawmakers have advocated for letting these corporate provisions leap-frog over tax credits for working families instead of putting top priority this fall on saving key provisions of the federal EITC and CTC. Something similar happened during the last major tax debate, when these EITC and CTC provisions were only extended through 2017 but estate tax changes for wealthy families were made permanent. Read more
Wisconsin Should Do More to Build On This Success
The federal government made a big difference in the lives of struggling people in 2014, showing the powerful role governments can play in creating opportunity and helping people build a more secure future. An analysis of new data from the Census Bureau demonstrates the success of federal programs and underscores the need for Wisconsin to do more to build on that success through its own opportunity-expanding policies, such as increasing the minimum wage and reversing cuts to the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit.
Almost one in five Wisconsin children live in families that made so little in 2014 that they were below the federal poverty level, according to new Census Bureau data released last week – meaning that they couldn’t afford basic necessities. The poverty level is currently $11,770 for a single person and $24,250 for a family of four. Fortunately, key safety net supports are keeping millions from living in dire circumstances, something not captured in the official poverty measure. Read more
Wisconsin Needs to Make Investments that Help Put People on the Path to Economic Security
Many Wisconsin families continue to struggle to make ends meet, according to new figures released today. We have our work cut out for us to make sure that all Wisconsin families have the opportunity to build a better, more secure future for themselves.
Five years into the nation’s recovery from recession, Wisconsin’s working families remain considerably worse off than they were before. Nearly three-quarters of a million Wisconsinites lived in poverty in 2014, according to today’s release of new Census data, which is 150,000 more than in 2007. Poverty is more prevalent among children than adults, with about 1 in 6 Wisconsin kids in poverty last year. Read more
Number of Uninsured Drops by 100,000 in Wisconsin in 2014
The number of people with health care coverage took an unprecedented jump last year, during the first year of implementation of key parts of the federal health care reform law. The number of uninsured Americans dropped in 2014 by 8.5 million , including 100,000 fewer uninsured Wisconsinites.
The new numbers, which were released today by the Census Bureau, provide the first comprehensive data on how the federal health care reform law affected insurance rates in 2014, after key portions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) took effect. The new figures come from the American Community Survey (ACS), and some of the highlights include the following:
- The percentage of Americans who are uninsured dropped from 14.5% in 2013 to 11.7% in 2014.
- Wisconsin went from a 9.1% uninsured rate in 2013 to 7.3% in 2014.
Pros and Cons of New 2014 Census Bureau Data on Health Insurance Rates in Wisconsin Outlined in New WCCF Report
The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) will release new data reflecting the number of uninsured individuals in Wisconsin and across the nation. Many of the ACA’s major laws, including access to health coverage through both the federal and state-based insurance marketplaces went into effect in 2014 and the data will help provide important insights regarding the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on the uninsured rate in 2014. However, given our analysis of more recent enrollment data, as well as the fact that the ACS data reflects a monthly average of survey data, the new ACS data won’t fully reflect the gains in health insurance enrollment in Wisconsin since January 2014.
WCCF has prepared a new report, “New Census Data Won’t Fully Reflect Health Insurance Gains,” outlining areas in which the new ACS data will shed light on the growth in access to health insurance since major provisions to the Affordable Care Act were implemented, as well as an explanation as to why the new data won’t entirely reflect the growth in health insurance coverage in Wisconsin. Read more
A new report issued in conjunction with the Labor Day weekend by COWS provides a thorough examination of Wisconsin job numbers, wages, poverty, and job quality, and it provides a sobering assessment of how working people in Wisconsin are doing:
“Wisconsin faces slow growth, extreme racial disparity in unemployment, long-term stagnation in wages, and one-fourth of workers struggling in poverty-wage jobs.”
The new COWS report – The State of Working Wisconsin 2015 – illustrates that as the national economy has gradually rebounded following the Great Recession, Wisconsin’s job growth has lagged behind. COWS’ analysis concludes that “if Wisconsin had enjoyed the same rate of job growth as the rest of the nation across the course of the recovery, the state would have 90,000 more jobs today.” The national growth rate from January 2011 through June of this year was 60% faster than the job growth Wisconsin experienced during that time.. Read more
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.
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