The Governor’s Math Uses the Wrong Numbers and Wrong Question
As the legislature nears a vote this week on using taxpayer dollars to help build a new Bucks arena, the Governor’s primary argument for subsidizing the Bucks continues to be the contention that it’s “cheaper to keep them.” That isn’t exactly an uplifting slogan, but it seems to be the strongest argument the Governor can muster. With that in mind, let’s review the arguments about the cost-effectiveness of public subsidies for the proposed arena.
There have been a number of excellent columns, blog posts and other commentaries about the arena issue. Among those, my favorite is a critique of the “cheaper to keep them” argument by Republican Representative Dean Knudson.
In a guest column he wrote in mid-June, Knudson skewers each of the three major points that the Governor and others have made to support the argument that the proposed public subsidies will be less expensive than the costs to be incurred if the Bucks leave Milwaukee: Read more
Compensation of CEOs at major U.S. firms continues to skyrocket, according to a new report by the Economic Policy Institute. To some extent that trend can probably be attributed to broad economic forces, but policy choices at the national and state level also contribute to the huge disparities in income and wealth.
The EPI report was interesting reading today – against the backdrop of Assembly GOP leaders announcing a plan for substantially reducing the prevailing wage law for public sector projects and releasing the details of a Bucks arena plan that will be a boon to the team’s very wealthy owners and players. Those two issue areas are great illustrations of how public policy decisions can exacerbate the widening income gap. And once the budget process resumes, we will learn whether legislative leaders plan to compound the problem by proceeding with a proposal to reduce taxes on very high income Wisconsinites by reducing or eliminating the alternative minimum tax – even as the budget makes cuts that will hurt low-income state residents. Read more
Wisconsin lawmakers on the legislature’s budget committee will probably meet this week to make decisions about a proposed income tax cut for high earners and other changes to Wisconsin’s tax system, among other issues. They should keep in mind that new evidence shows that no state that passed large income tax cuts in recent years has seen its economy grow faster than the national average. Read more
More evidence is piling up that states that made big tax cuts in recent years – including Wisconsin – are failing to keep up with the rest of the country when it comes to job growth. Read more
There’s been a lot of talk in Wisconsin over the last couple of weeks about the need to ensure that tax breaks and loans awarded by Wisconsin’s economic development agency are limited to businesses that are creating jobs and fulfill their job growth commitments. Yet almost no attention has been paid to the fact that the state’s largest tax credit for corporations is ballooning in cost and is distributed to businesses operating in Wisconsin regardless of whether they are expanding or slashing their workforce in our state. Read more
Though researchers disagree on the effects of “right to work” legislation on the number of jobs, what is quite clear is that such laws suppress wages. Now that legislative leaders have suddenly put a so-called “right to work” (RTW) bill on a very fast track, I hope legislators will take a careful look at a couple of recent studies that examine the economic effects and warn against following the path of the states that have approved RTW laws.
A recent report by Dr. Abdur Chowdhury, who teaches economics at Marquette, reached the following conclusion about the effects on Wisconsin income and state taxes:
“The potential net loss in direct income to Wisconsin workers and their families due to a RTW legislation is between $3.89 and $4.82 billion annually. Using a conservative estimate of an impact multiplier of 1.5, the total direct and induced loss of a RTW legislation is estimated between $5.84 and $7.23 billion annually. Read more
A national group recently issued the 2015 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, which provides a trove of comparative data on household financial security and policy solutions. It’s a very important resource – coming at a time when new data show that income disparities in Wisconsin have reached record levels, and as a broader range of politicians have begun to offer plans for fighting poverty (see for example the plan recently offered by Senator Darling and Rep. Kooyenga).
The scorecard was prepared by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), a nonprofit organization based in Washington DC that works to expand economic opportunities for low-income families and communities. They have scored and ranked states on the basis of a wide range of outcome measures, and a second ranking compares states on the basis of how well they are doing in adopting an array of policy solutions that have been shown to increase opportunity for low-income households. Read more
Weakening unions will be a top priority for state lawmakers when they next meet in January, according to new statements by legislative leaders. Unions help workers achieve higher wages, and limiting unions’ abilities to advocate for workers could make it harder for some families to climb the economic ladder.
Unionized workers earn more in wages and other compensation than non-union workers who are otherwise the same in education, industry, age, and other factors. Union workers earn $1.24 more per hour, or 13.6% more than other similarly-situated workers who are not in unions, according to an 2012 analysis by the Economic Policy Institute. For a full-time worker, that wage difference adds up to nearly $2,600 per year.
In addition to earning more money, union workers are better off than their counterparts with regards to health insurance, retirement, and paid time off. Union workers are more likely to:
- have employer-sponsored health insurance, including coverage after retirement;
- have smaller health insurance deductibles;
- have lower health insurance premium costs;
- have a pension; and
- have more paid time off.
The best way to create jobs and build a broad-based prosperity in Wisconsin is to invest in excellent schools, safe communities, and a solid transportation network.
But a new report released today takes a different approach, claiming that giving big tax cuts to the rich and raising taxes for others would help the Wisconsin economy. The report, released by the conservative Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, repeats the myth that tax cuts create jobs, despite growing evidence to the contrary.
The report advocates changing the state’s tax mix to rely less on the income tax and more on the sales tax, a change the group says would boost the state’s economy. But what the report fails to mention is that the result would be big tax cuts for people with the highest incomes and higher taxes for everyone else. If Wisconsin eliminated the income tax and raised the sales tax to make up for the resulting revenue loss, the top 1% of earners in Wisconsin – a group with an average income of $1.1 million – would get a tax cut of a whopping $44,000 on average. Read more