House Plans to Cut Medicaid Would Jeopardize Critical Health Services for Students
Wisconsin schools have a lot at stake in the debate about federal support for Medicaid. Even though Wisconsin ranks 19th nationally in the size of its school-age population, our state ranks 7th highest in federal funding for Medicaid services provided by schools.
According to a new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Wisconsin schools received more than $187 million for Medicaid services in 2015, including more than $107 million in federal Medicaid funds. That amount is higher than in all but six other states, despite the fact that Wisconsin ranks near the bottom in total Medicaid spending per child. These figures indicate that Wisconsin schools have done a good job of utilizing federal assistance to support school-based health services.
Medicaid provides health care for more than 1.1 million Wisconsinites, including about 500,000 children, but many people are unaware of its significance for schools. Read more
President Trump has released an outline of a federal budget that would make it harder for Wisconsin families to make ends meet, harm the environment, and make it less likely for students to graduate – leaving the state on the hook to make up some of the difference. His budget won’t do much to “make America great again,” but it would harm Wisconsin residents in very specific ways. Here are five of them:
1. By making it harder for Wisconsin residents to stay warm in the winter. President Trump’s budget eliminates the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps people with low incomes heat their homes. In 2016, 199,190 people in the state received federal heating assistance to keep their homes heated through the cold Wisconsin winter. President Trump’s budget proposal eliminates that assistance.
2. By making it more difficult for struggling students to keep out of trouble and stay in school. Read more
State lawmakers in Wisconsin are seeking to pass a resolution that calls for a convention to make drastic changes to the U.S. Constitution. If enough states join this effort, delegates to such a convention could have wide-ranging authority to make amendments to the constitution with very little in the way of external controls on what they are enabled to do.
The idea of a Constitutional Convention sounds far-fetched. After all, the last time there was a similar convention was in 1787, when delegates who were charged with amending the Articles of Confederation instead wrote an entirely new government document. But groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are pushing for a convention, and in the past few years several states have adopted resolutions calling for one. Resolutions in 34 states are needed for a convention to be called, and so far 29 states have passed some version of a resolution. Read more
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.
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