When Wisconsin residents drive on the highway, send their child off to school, or go to the doctor, they are benefitting from federal money spent in Wisconsin that supports a broad range of services. Under a new Congress, Wisconsin may be at risk of losing some of that federal money, making it more difficult for Wisconsin to provide the services that make the state a great place to live, work, and do business.
Wisconsin’s two-year budget that runs from July 2015 to June 2017 includes $21 billion in federal spending. In fact, out of every dollar the state spends in the budget, 29¢ comes from the federal government. Keep in mind that amount, though significant, understates the importance of federal money coming into the state. That’s because that $21 billion figure doesn’t include billions in federal resources that are delivered directly to Wisconsin residents or companies, such as Social Security payments, defense contracts, and the federal Earned Income Tax Credit. Read more
Trump Owes It to Workers to Raise the Floor for Wages
The broad popular support for increasing the minimum wage was demonstrated quite clearly on November 8 when voters backed increases in all five states where the wage floor was on the ballot. President-elect Trump should back up his promises to help the working class by pushing for a significant boost in the national minimum wage, which has been stuck at $7.25 per hour for almost eight years.
In Arizona, Colorado, and Maine, voters approved increases in their state minimum wages to $12 by 2020. Voters in Washington State went further by approving a measure to raise the minimum wage to $13.50 by 2020, and the electorate of Flagstaff Arizona approved an increase to $15 by 2021. The state-level ballot measures in Arizona and Washington also expand paid sick leave to more workers.
The increases in the pay floor were approved by significant percentages: 60% in Washington, 59% in Arizona, and 55% in both Colorado and Maine. Read more
Republicans who control the U.S. House of Representatives have proposed a budget framework that would raise the incomes of millionaires while cutting services for families and individuals with low and moderate incomes. The leader of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, represents a Wisconsin district that includes the cities of Kenosha, Racine, and Janesville.
The budget framework, called A Better Way, includes an emphasis on cutting taxes for people with very high incomes. According to an analysis by the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, the GOP House tax plan would:
- Cut taxes for millionaires by an average of $330,000 per household in 2017, with their after-tax incomes rising by 15%. In contrast, the middle fifth of households by income would receive an average tax cut of $260, boosting their after-tax income by just 0.5%;
- Cut taxes for the top 0.1% of the population by income – a group with an average income of more than $3.7 million – by an average of $1.3 million per household in 2017, increasing their after-tax income by 17%; and
- Cut taxes for millionaires by $2.6 trillion over the next decade, forty times the $56 billion in tax cuts that the middle fifth of taxpayers would receive.
Anti-poverty Programs Lift about 830,000 Wisconsinites above Poverty Line
Speaker Ryan and other conservatives are calling for sweeping changes that would seriously weaken safety net programs, and a core argument for those changes is way off the mark.
In early June, Ryan and other House Republicans issued a report about reforming public assistance programs that contends that despite decades of substantial federal spending for safety net programs, “the official poverty rate in 2014 (14.8%) was no better than it was in 1966 (14.7%), when many of these programs started.”
At first blush, that sounds like a compelling argument, but it’s a red herring. Speaker Ryan’s claim is based on the official poverty measure, which seems logical. But that gauge of poverty, established by the Census Bureau in the 1960s, measures cash income only and excludes many forms of public assistance. As the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities points out about this poverty measure:
“…it ignores virtually all anti-poverty assistance created or expanded over the past half century, while counting the main form of assistance cut sharply over this period – cash assistance for families with children.
An Increased EITC for Childless Adults Would Reduce Poverty and Enjoys Bipartisan Support
Income inequality has been on the minds of many voters during the presidential primaries. If you think it’s only a concern of Democrats, take a look at the results of the most recent “Wisconsin Survey” – a St. Norbert’s poll conducted for Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television. The survey last week of 616 registered Wisconsin voters found that 66% favor “increasing taxes on wealthy Americans and large corporations in order to help reduce income inequality in the U.S.,” compared to only 28% who said they were opposed.
There are lots of different ways to adjust taxes (and labor policy) to reduce income inequality. Unfortunately, most of those – such as closing corporate tax loopholes and increasing the minimum wage – have little chance in Congress right now. But one promising policy option that does have a chance is to provide a significant increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for adults who don’t have dependent children. Read more
President Obama’s Budget Would Make Expansion an Even Better Deal
The budget bill introduced this week by President Obama would make the expansion of Medicaid an even better deal for states like Wisconsin that have not yet taken up the option. If Wisconsin expanded BadgerCare eligibility in January 2017, the president’s recommendations would increase the savings for Wisconsin taxpayers by $252 million by the end of fiscal year 2021.
The president’s proposal calls for reimbursing each state for the full cost of newly-eligible adults for the first three years after expanding coverage, regardless of when the expansion begins. As a result, states that expand coverage of adults this year or any time in the future would get the same enhanced federal funding as the states that expanded coverage in 2014. Read more
Lawmakers Considering Proposals that would Hinder Wisconsin’s Ability to Make Investments in State’s Future
State lawmakers are considering a number of bills and constitutional changes that would make it difficult for Wisconsin to make necessary investments in local schools, communities, and health care systems. Several of the proposals are aimed at changing the budget process in ways that would make it more difficult for elected officials to boost the economy, lessen the economic effects of recessions, and protect vulnerable residents.
Wisconsin lawmakers are considering the following proposals:
More corporate tax cuts (Assembly Bill 623/Senate Bill 503) This bill contains a variety of innocuous-seeming changes to corporate tax law, but there is nothing innocuous about the cost of this proposal, which could be as much as a whopping $384 million a year! Keep in mind that this bill comes in the wake of a recent tax cut that gives manufacturers and agricultural producers a virtual pass on paying any corporate income tax at all.
At the hearing held by the state Senate on January 13, the bill author indicated he was open to changes that would pare back the cost. Read more
Wisconsin families all across the state will have a harder time making ends meet if Congress does not take action to protect improvements to two important federal tax credits, according to a new analysis from the Wisconsin Budget Project.
More than 150,000 working families in Wisconsin and 301,000 children will be harmed if federal policymakers fail to save key provisions of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) that are set to expire at the end of 2017. These families will lose an average of $1,100 per year they could use to make investments that help them keep working and improve the economic security of their family, such as paying for car repairs or saving for their children’s college educations.
Lawmakers have an opportunity in the next few weeks to make the improvements permanent. Several temporary corporate tax provisions are expiring soon, and advocates for working families believe that if the businesses tax breaks are made permanent, improvements to tax credits for struggling working families should also be made permanent in the same legislation. Read more
Pro-work tax credits give a boost to thousands of veteran and military households in Wisconsin, but nearly half of those families will lose part or all of their tax credits unless Congress takes action.
Key provisions of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC), both of which help families with low incomes make ends meet, are set to expire at the end of 2017. These federal credits encourage work, help children do better in school, improve the health of children and families, and strengthen the future workforce.
In Wisconsin, hundreds of thousands of households – including 36,000 veteran and military households – benefit from the EITC or the part of the CTC that benefits families with low incomes. However, 17,000 of the veteran and military families that benefit will lose part or all of their tax credits if Congress doesn’t act to protect improvements to those credits. Read more