Wisconsin’s Tax System Exacerbates Growing Gap between Rich and Everyone Else

Friday, April 14, 2017 at 8:02 AM by

Wisconsin is a better place when we all do well. Unfortunately, while the wealthiest have seen their incomes skyrocket in recent decades, incomes have stagnated for the middle class and those who struggle hardest to make ends meet. It’s becoming harder to make it to the middle class and stay there.

Wisconsin’s state and local tax system, like the tax systems in most states, makes this problem worse. If you look at who pays taxes in Wisconsin, it turns out that middle-class and low-income families pay a bigger share of their incomes in state and local taxes than the wealthiest households in the state. We call on financially-stressed families to pay 8.9 cents out of every dollar they earn in state and local taxes, while the wealthiest households pay just 6.2 cents out of every dollar of income. And many corporations pay little or nothing in income taxes.

Best off pay smallest share of income in taxes

Wisconsin’s middle class, once one of the strongest in the country, has shrunk more quickly than in any other state. Read more

Plan to Restrict Voters’ Ability to Approve School Referendums Could Hurt Rural Districts

Tuesday, April 11, 2017 at 12:02 PM by

Some state lawmakers are seeking to restrict the ability of Wisconsin residents to raise new resources for schools, by banning certain types of school referendums and limiting others. The proposed measures have the potential to harm rural school districts, many of which are struggling to manage the financial effects of declining enrollments.

For a brief description of the proposed restrictions on school referendums, see this summary from the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.

One of the measures proposed would prohibit Wisconsin voters from permanently increasing property taxes to raise their school district’s state-imposed budget cap. Instead, voters would only be able to approve raising new revenues for a maximum of five years at a time. The state would invalidate referendums approved in the past that permanently raised property taxes and set them to expire after five years.

Eliminating the ability of voters to raise their property taxes on a permanent basis would hit rural school districts hardest. Read more

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Voters Approve School Referendums across Wisconsin

Friday, April 7, 2017 at 12:34 PM by

On Tuesday, voters in many Wisconsin school districts approved new resources for children in public schools.

Voters approved 40 out of 65 school referendums on the ballot, raising their property taxes to replace school buildings, improve academic offerings, and provide needed services to students.

Wisconsin residents voted to approve $465 million in borrowing for new construction and building updates, $228 million to expand school district operating budgets for a set amount of time, and $7 million to expand school district budgets on a permanent basis.

In a way, it’s not surprising that Wisconsin voters are willing to approve additional money to help educate children in their district. An overwhelming majority of Wisconsin residents think schools are doing a good job, according to a recent poll by Marquette University.

This map shows the location of successful and unsuccessful referendums. You can hover over a shape to get information on the district that held the referendum, the outcome, the type of referendum, and the dollar amount. Read more

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The Case for Expanding BadgerCare Grows Stronger

Thursday, April 6, 2017 at 5:57 PM by

$190 Million Annual Savings + Threats to Federal Marketplace = Stronger Case for Expansion

There are many reasons why it makes sense for Wisconsin to modestly increase the eligibility ceiling for BadgerCare. A new memo by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) sheds light on and strengthens one of those reasons – the large savings for Wisconsin from increasing the BadgerCare eligibility standard for adults.

Ironically, the ongoing efforts to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may also bolster the case for expanding BadgerCare, since the individual insurance Marketplace created by the ACA was Governor Walker’s rationale for sharply reducing BadgerCare eligibility. But let’s come back to that point after taking a closer look at the fiscal effect of expansion.

Under the Affordable Care Act, states that expand eligibility of adults to 138% of the federal poverty level are eligible for substantially higher federal cost sharing. Taking that step would qualify Wisconsin for reimbursement of at least 90% federal funding for the costs of covering childless adults, compared to the 58% reimbursement rate in effect now. Read more

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Five Ways Trump’s Budget Proposal Would Harm Wisconsin

Thursday, March 30, 2017 at 12:27 PM by

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

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Wisconsin Residents Think Public Schools are Doing a Good Job and Want Lawmakers to Boost Funding

Thursday, March 23, 2017 at 2:32 PM by

An overwhelming majority of Wisconsin residents think schools are doing a good job and favor increasing state support to K-12 schools in the next budget, a new poll by Marquette University shows.

Eighty percent of poll respondents said they want the state to dedicate additional resources to schools in the next budget, with just 17% opposing such a measure. That represents a strikingly large majority of Wisconsin residents who want to see legislators make K-12 schools a priority as the budget moves forward.

Support for schools Read more

The Sneak Attack on Medicaid

Wednesday, March 22, 2017 at 6:07 PM by

House Changes Make a Terrible Bill Even Worse

The House bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) goes far beyond changing that law. Without so much as a single public hearing, the bill being voted on by the House this week also makes radical changes to the structure of the Medicaid program that provides health care coverage for about one-fifth of Americans.

The bill would impose an arbitrary cap on federal Medicaid funding, thereby shifting costs to states, health care providers, communities, and those who can least afford it. It would dismantle Medicaid’s flexible financing structure that has protected children, families, individuals with disabilities and seniors during economic downturns or when our state faced increased health care costs due to natural disasters or public health emergencies.

Rather than providing states with more flexibility, this financial restructuring would give Washington D.C. more control over Wisconsin because federal politicians would be able to lower the amount they send our state to support Medicaid.  Read more

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In Wisconsin, Radical Proposal to Amend U.S. Constitution is Introduced

Monday, March 20, 2017 at 11:04 AM by
Go to www.constitutionaldefenders.org for more information about the dangerous and misguided effort to alter the U.S. Constitution that is being considered by the Wisconsin legislature.

Wisconsin Governments Near Average in Revenue and Spending

Monday, March 13, 2017 at 11:55 AM by

Wisconsin is near average in many measures of government revenue and spending, according to figures for 2014 that were recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s nothing new, as Wisconsin has been near the middle of the pack for about a decade now.

A new analysis from the Wisconsin Budget Project found:

  • Wisconsin state and local governments ranked 24th among the states in the amount of taxes, fees, and other charges that they collect from state residents on a per-person basis, and 21st when that amount is measured as a share of personal income.
  • Wisconsin ranks 25th in total government spending per person and also 25th when the amount is measured as a share of income.

There are many different ways to measure public revenue and spending, and Wisconsin ranked very close to the middle in nearly all of them, with two exceptions:

  • Wisconsin ranked 16th in the share of income that governments collect from state residents in taxes.
Read more
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Wisconsin Lawmakers Set to Consider Radical Proposal to Amend U.S. Constitution

Wednesday, March 8, 2017 at 6:28 AM by

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