A balanced budget amendment in the U.S. Constitution would result in much longer and deeper recessions and would cause unnecessary job losses. When the economy goes into a dive and people are without jobs, the need for food stamps, health insurance and unemployment insurance rise sharply. Since tax revenue typically falls as the need for those programs rises, a balanced budget would require cuts to these safety net programs and other areas of spending at the worst possible time.
A big jump in state revenue that will be announced soon gives lawmakers an excellent opportunity to invest in Wisconsin’s economic future and to put the state on a sounder fiscal footing by filling budget holes.
Federal Lifeline for the Unemployed Ends Dec. 28th, but the Debate Will Continue
Federally funded unemployment insurance benefits, known as emergency unemployment compensation (EUC), will expire at the end of this week. However, the debate on this issue will continue into 2014, as Senate Democrats seek an opportunity to restore the EUC program. (See, for example, this article about Senator Reed’s proposal.)
Here are ten key things to know about the EUC program, which expires on December 28:
1) The maximum length of unemployment insurance benefits will immediately drop to the 26 weeks of state benefits, which is slightly less than half the current limit in Wisconsin of 54 weeks of combined state and federal benefits. (That has already been reduced from a maximum of 99 weeks during the worst of the recession.)
Minnesota releases updated revenue and spending projections in early December of each year, and the new figures released today are very positive – a net gain in the Minnesota budget balance of about $1 billion. Let’s hope that Wisconsin can come close to matching that when our new tax and spending estimates are released in late January or February.
As we noted in a blog post about two weeks ago, many people across the country are watching Minnesota and Wisconsin carefully because of the very different directions that the two states have gone in fiscal and health care policy over the last couple of years. Because of the many demographic similarities between the two states, the divergent choices by policymakers set up an interesting experiment. In that context, today’s budget news from our neighbor to the west could be an early point in their favor, but we won’t have any basis of comparison in Wisconsin for another month or two. Read more
November was Native American Heritage Month, but for most of the month all we have heard about was the mascot issue and casinos. The national stories about the “code-talkers” during World War II were a welcome exception to the dearth of positive stories about American Indians during the first half of the month, though those stories drew attention to just a very brief glimpse of Indian history and contributions.
In addition to wishing that the media would shed more light on Native Americans’ contributions to American history and culture, I would like to hear more about the economic challenges facing American Indians, particularly those living in “Indian country.” The following graphic, prepared by my colleague Tamarine Cornelius, shows that the unemployment rate for Native Americans in Wisconsin is almost twice the rate for non-Hispanic whites, and the poverty rate is more than two and a half times as high for Native Americans (25.3% vs. Read more
Yesterday’s competition between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings ended in a rare tie game. That game is finished, but there is another competition that is still going on between Wisconsin and Minnesota, one that involves job creation and economic growth, rather than touchdowns and field goals.
Wisconsin and Minnesota are similar states in many ways, but we are taking very different approaches to growing our state economies. Policymakers in Wisconsin have focused on cutting taxes, especially for corporations and the wealthiest, sharply reducing state spending on K-12 education and the university system, and limiting tax credits and other services that give a boost to struggling families. In contrast, policymakers in Minnesota have targeted the state’s highest earners for an increase in income taxes, kept education spending on an even keel during the recession, and expanded Medicaid.
The different approaches to economic development amount to a type of experiment, one that policymakers from other states will be watching with a close eye. Read more
2014 is the 50th anniversary of the “war on poverty,” and we can expect a lot of debate and posturing then about that ambitious undertaking. Expect some legislators to use the opportunity to urge that policymakers renew their commitment to fight poverty and reinvigorate some of the elements of that agenda, while others will take that opportunity to declare the war on poverty a failure and a mistake.
The State of Working Wisconsin: Update 2013
A Labor Day tradition is that the Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS) either rewrites or updates their comprehensive biennial report called the State of Working Wisconsin, which provides a thorough examination of Wisconsin job numbers, wages, poverty, and job quality. This year COWS released a five-page update that you can find here.
The short report explains that the gradual rebound in jobs following the Great Recession has been much slower than previous recoveries, and Wisconsin’s job growth is well behind the weak national recovery. COWS’ analysis found that “Wisconsin would have 33,000 more jobs today if we’d only kept on pace with the national recovery” (which would add one-third more to the increase of 99,000 jobs since the Wisconsin economy began to recover in Feb. 2010). They note that although employment growth began to accelerate in the rest of the Midwest in 2012, Wisconsin’s recovery “seems stuck in a lower gear.”
The COWS report examines job trends in Wisconsin by sector to determine where the “missing jobs” are. Read more
“Moderate” Growth Anticipated by DOR Would Yield 137,000 Jobs During Walker’s Four-year Term
Wisconsin can expect “moderate” economic growth over the next several years, according to an “Economic Outlook” report issued today by the Department of Revenue (DOR). The new report, which includes estimates for a wide range of economic indicators until 2016, projects that Wisconsin will gain about 137,000 private sector jobs during the four years after Scott Walker was elected Governor (which would be about 55% of the 250,000 jobs that the Governor promised). That represents a projected increase of 5.9% over four years, compared to an expected 6.8% increase in employment at the national level.
Some of the other noteworthy findings or projections include the following:
- Personal income growth in Wisconsin is expected to slow to 1.9% for 2013, before accelerating to 4.6% in 2014 and 4.4% in each of the following two years (not adjusted for inflation).
Grover Norquist Neglects the Facts in Exhorting North Carolina to Follow Wisconsin Path
In a recent article, political commentator and conservative strategist Grover Norquist urged North Carolina lawmakers to make their state the “new Wisconsin.” He uses or misuses one piece of economic data to suggest that Wisconsin’s economy is thriving, while ignoring ample evidence that indicates otherwise. That argument shows the same sort of inattentiveness to or disregard of economic facts that led many conservatives to advocate that the U.S. should emulate the fiscal austerity policies being practiced in the European Union.
The one piece of economic evidence cited by Norquist and the article’s coauthor, Patrick Gleason, is that over the past two years, since Governor Walker signed the last biennial budget bill, “the state’s unemployment rate has dropped from 7.6 percent to 7 percent — below the national average.” It’s true that Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is below average – but that’s nothing new and can’t be traced back to a particular policy agenda. Read more