Repeal without Replacing: A Health Care Disaster

Tuesday, July 18, 2017 at 6:13 PM by

A month or two ago, President Trump described the House plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as being “mean,” and he was right. Yet today he endorsed a far meaner approach – repealing the ACA without a replacement plan – even though he was the one who shot down that idea when Congress was considering it back in January, and despite the fact that a wealth of data demonstrate what a disaster that approach would be.

Senator McConnell is trying to breathe life into the strategy of repealing the ACA without first coming up with a replacement. That became his fallback plan today after it became apparent late yesterday that there aren’t enough votes to even begin the floor debate on the extremely unpopular “repeal and replace” plan, which a small group of Senators spent the last couple of months developing behind closed doors.

President Trump endorsed the new strategy, but some of the other Republican lawmakers who opposed the idea early this year – and whose positions are less fluid than Trump’s – have said they are still unwilling to wipe away the current law without having a replacement plan. Read more

Wisconsin Voters Understand Importance of Making Public Investments in Education, Health Care

Thursday, June 29, 2017 at 11:15 AM by

Wisconsin voters want the state to make additional investments in K-12 education and health coverage and are willing to pay more in taxes to pay for it, according to a new poll conducted by Marquette University.

The poll showed that K-12 education was voters’ highest priority for increased state spending, with 62% of respondents picking it as the first or second highest priority. Health coverage came next, with 52% of respondents indicating it was among their highest priorities. Road construction and maintenance came in third, with 42% choosing it as a high priority. Fewer voters identified state aid to local governments, the UW System, and prisons and the criminal justice system as their highest priorities.

Most voters said they’d be willing to pay more in taxes to increase state spending on their highest priority. More than 6 out of ten respondents (61%) indicated a willingness to pay more for programs and services that were the most important to them. Read more

Windfall: Recent Tax Cuts Deliver Big Benefits to Wisconsin’s Richest Residents

Tuesday, June 27, 2017 at 3:14 PM by

PizzaA series of major tax cuts passed between 2011 and 2016 has been a boon to the wealthy, giving big tax breaks to Wisconsin residents with the highest incomes. A new analysis by the Wisconsin Budget Project takes a look at the outsized tax benefit lawmakers have provided to the top 1% by income in the state, and contrasts it to the much smaller tax breaks received by residents in the other 99%.

There are several ways of comparing the size of the average tax cuts received by residents in different income groups. But in this case, all of the methods point to the same conclusion: the tax cuts that lawmakers have passed in recent years have provided much larger tax breaks to the wealthiest than to other groups of taxpayers.  The analysis examines how the tax cuts stack up in three different ways:

Measured as a share of revenue loss to the state: Out of every dollar in new tax cuts, the top 1% of Wisconsin residents by income got $0.24. Read more

Wisconsin Bill Does Little to Protect People with Preexisting Conditions

Monday, June 26, 2017 at 5:54 PM by

Bill Passed by Assembly Fails to Close a Huge Loophole Proposed by Republicans in Congress

One of the many problems with the bill to repeal and partially replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is that it would seriously erode the current protections for millions of Americans who have preexisting health conditions. That’s a very unpopular part of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the Republican health care bill, but there’s a lot of confusion about how it undermines coverage for people with chronic health conditions.

The confusion was evident during a late night debate in the Wisconsin legislature last week, when the Assembly passed a bill that would purportedly protect people with preexisting conditions, but which largely misses the mark because it fails to address a huge loophole contained in AHCA. The muddled debate after midnight on June 22nd is a great example of why there needs to be a longer and more open debate about the version of AHCA that was developed behind closed doors in recent weeks. Read more

Out of Sync: Wisconsin Lawmakers Still in Search of Agreement on Major Components of State Budget

Friday, June 23, 2017 at 10:09 AM by

After several weeks of deliberating, Wisconsin lawmakers have settled large chunks of the state budget but are still working out disagreements in the areas of K-12 education, transportation finance, and taxes.

In the meantime, Assembly Republicans have released their own version of a K-12 education budget. A new summary by the Wisconsin Budget Project compares the Assembly version to Governor Walker’s proposed education budget, highlighting the areas in which the two versions are different. The Assembly version allocates about $90 million less in state funding overall to K-12 schools and would result in slightly higher taxes for property owners compared to the Governor’s budget. Education advocates generally favor the Governor’s budget over the Assembly’s version.

In an effort to come to agreement, Assembly and Senate leaders have been meeting behind closed doors to discuss the education budget, and news reports indicate they are close to reaching an agreement.

On Thursday, Democrats released their own plan, which would allocate significantly more funding to schools. Read more

Lawmakers Seek to Rescind Voters’ Decisions to Raise Resources for Local Schools on an On-going Basis

Thursday, June 22, 2017 at 1:24 PM by

Wisconsin lawmakers have proposed stripping nearly $200 million in voter-approved resources from school districts across the state as part of a package of legislation aimed at making it more difficult for voters to raise taxes on themselves to pay for schools.

The state sets a budget cap for each individual school district, limiting the amount of money a district may spend to educate students from the combination of general state aid and local property taxes. Voters in a district can override the budget cap – either permanently or for a set period of time – by approving a referendum.

Lawmakers have proposed eliminating the ability of voters to permanently raise budget caps, as well as invalidating past referendums in which voters permanently raised budget caps (Assembly Bill 268/Senate Bill 195). Voters would still be able to lift budget caps on a temporary basis, but only for up to five years at a time. Read more

President Trump’s Budget Would Make it Harder for Wisconsin to Strengthen its Workforce

Monday, June 19, 2017 at 10:49 AM by

President Trump visited the Milwaukee area last week, tweeting that he was “heading to the Great State of Wisconsin to talk about “JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!” Expanding opportunities for workers and developing the state’s workforce should be a top priority for policymakers at both the state and federal levels, but President Trump’s rhetoric doesn’t match his actions on this issue. His proposed budget makes deep cuts to the federal resources that Wisconsin uses to develop the state’s skilled and work-ready labor force.

Trump jobs tweet

In his visit to Waukesha County Technical College, President Trump emphasized the importance of developing a skilled workforce, declaring that “America must not only teach, but celebrate skilled labor.” But the 2018 budget he proposed would deeply cut federal funding for programs and services that states deliver that are critical for the development of a healthy, well-educated workforce – programs like Medicaid, which helps people with low incomes see a doctor when they need one, and SNAP (previously known as food stamps), which helps people with low incomes put food on the table. Read more

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Congressional Changes to Medicaid Leave Wisconsin Behind

Wednesday, June 14, 2017 at 5:54 PM by

AHCA Would Permanently Lock in Wisconsin’s Lower Federal Funding

Without so much as a single public hearing, Congress is close to approving huge changes to Medicaid that substantially reduce spending and radically change how funding is allocated. One of the ways that those changes will hurt Wisconsin is by permanently penalizing states like ours that currently spend well below the national average for each person in Medicaid.

One aspect of this problem has gotten some press attention this week – the way that the new funding allocation will lock into place lower federal support for the 19 states, including Wisconsin, that did not take federal Medicaid expansion funds. Jason Stein’s June 13 article in the Journal Sentinel does a nice job of covering that issue.

However, an even more basic problem is that the new funding formula would be based on each state’s average spending per Medicaid participant, which will freeze into place the lower federal funding levels in states that have had very narrow benefits and also in states with more generous benefits but more efficient use of their funding. Read more

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Kansas’ Experiment Yields Valuable Lessons

Monday, June 12, 2017 at 1:12 PM by
Kansas map

Wisconsin lawmakers should heed the warnings from Kansas

Wisconsin lawmakers advocating for additional tax cuts should consider the example of Kansas, a state that has pushed through enormous tax cuts and that has been held up by tax-cut proponents as a model worth replicating. The massive tax cuts in Kansas damaged the state’s schools, colleges and universities, and key services – and failed to improve Kansas’s economic performance.

The tax cuts passed in Kansas are larger than the ones that have been passed in Wisconsin, but otherwise they share many characteristics. In both states, tax cuts helped the rich much more than most state residents, making income inequality worse. And both states raised taxes on low-income families working to climb into the middle class.  

In the face of disappointing economic growth, Kansas lawmakers have acknowledged that they need to take a different approach, one that invests in assets that help businesses thrive, communities prosper, and hard-working families climb the economic ladder. Read more

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When Work isn’t Enough: Effectively Supporting Wisconsin’s Working Families

Thursday, June 8, 2017 at 8:13 AM by

Wisconsin workers should be able to earn enough to support their families and make ends meet. But many jobs in Wisconsin don’t pay enough to lift workers’ families out of poverty, or provide the benefits that families need, according to a recent report from COWS at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The difficulty that workers have in climbing out of poverty is compounded by the fact that many of the supports that Wisconsin provides to working families are not well-aligned with the realities of low-wage jobs. Rather than fixing these supports, some Wisconsin lawmakers want to make these services even more difficult for Wisconsin workers to access.

Many jobs in Wisconsin simply don’t pay enough to make ends meet. More than 1 in 4 Wisconsin workers hold poverty-wage jobs, defined as jobs in which someone working full-time year-round would still not earn enough to keep a family of four out of poverty. Read more

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