A National Victory for Transparency in State and Local Budgeting

Friday, August 14, 2015 at 5:35 PM by

New standards issued today will substantially improve public access to important information about budget choices made at the state and local level. Because of the historic changes in accounting standards announced today, state and local governments will soon have to report how much revenue they lose to corporate tax breaks given for economic development. 

Greg LeRoy, director of Good Jobs First, which has been a vocal advocate for better disclosure of state and local tax breaks, said the new guidelines aren’t perfect, but lauded the new standards and explained their importance:

States and cities spend an estimated $70 billion a year for economic development, most of it through tax expenditures. But we could only estimate because GASB has never before called for standardized reporting. That’s the historic value of this new standard: taxpayers and policymakers will finally see the true price tag for economic development.”  Read more

The “Cheaper to Keep Them” Argument Uses Flawed Assumptions

Monday, July 6, 2015 at 8:03 PM by

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

Categories: 2015-17 biennial budget, Blog, economy | Comments Off

Pay Gap Widens Further, and Policy Choices Exacerbate the Problem

Monday, June 29, 2015 at 6:59 PM by

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

Categories: Blog, income, income inequality | Comments Off

Tax Cuts Haven’t Boosted Wisconsin Economy

Tuesday, June 16, 2015 at 11:39 AM by

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

Categories: Blog, economy, JOBS & THE ECONOMY, STATE TAXES | Comments Off

Tax Cuts Haven’t Done Much to Boost Job Growth in Wisconsin or Other Tax-Cutting States

Tuesday, June 9, 2015 at 9:50 AM by

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

Rein in Tax Breaks that Aren’t Tied to Job Creation

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 at 7:29 PM by

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

“Right to Work” Bill Would Suppress Wisconsin’s Already Anemic Wages

Monday, February 23, 2015 at 7:32 PM by

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

Categories: Blog, economy, income, jobs, JOBS & THE ECONOMY | Comments Off

Scorecard Offers Options for Improving Economic Opportunity

Monday, February 9, 2015 at 8:53 PM by

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

Categories: Blog, ECONOMIC SECURITY, income inequality | Comments Off

By Targeting Unions, Lawmakers Risk Lowering Wages for Workers

Tuesday, December 9, 2014 at 9:06 AM by

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.
  • Read more

Categories: Blog, ECONOMIC SECURITY, jobs, JOBS & THE ECONOMY | Comments Off