Push by Lawmakers to Break Up Racine School District Could Segregate Students by Race, Income

Thursday, October 5, 2017 at 10:25 AM by

A provision that Wisconsin lawmakers included in the state budget would stratify students in the Racine area by income and race and make it more difficult for the Racine school district to improve academic opportunities for students. The budget encourages  wealthier, less racially diverse areas of the Racine school district to break off and form their own separate districts, concentrating poorer students in the remaining portion of the district.

Racine Unified School District is the fifth-largest district in the state, with about 19,000 students spread out over 31 schools. The school district includes the City of Racine as well as several other municipalities including the villages of Caledonia (about 25,000 residents), Mount Pleasant (26,000 residents), and Sturtevant (5,000 residents).

Students in the Racine school district already face obstacles to academic success. Racine has a higher proportion of students from low-income families than other similarly-situated school districts in Wisconsin and the lowest share of adults with a college degree, according to a study from the Public Policy Forum. Read more

Wisconsin’s Lagging Income Growth Boosts Federal Share of Medicaid Costs

Wednesday, October 4, 2017 at 5:37 PM by

A state’s lagging economic performance can have a silver lining – in the form of increased federal assistance. Thanks to a Medicaid formula that currently provides more generous cost-sharing to states that are below average in per capita income, Wisconsin’s rather anemic personal income growth will save the state millions of dollars during the 2017-19 budget period.

However, that feature of Medicaid funding allocations could be gone in a few years if Congress approves the recent Republican proposals that would block grant or cap each state’s allocation. Read more

To Observe Constitution Day, Protect Constitution from Threat of Convention

Monday, September 18, 2017 at 10:05 AM by

Sunday, September 17th was Constitution Day, a holiday that recognizes the adoption of the U.S. Constitution and those who have become citizens. This year, Constitution Day marked the 230th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution by delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787.

The U.S. Constitution has served the country well for more than two centuries, but some Wisconsin state lawmakers want to open the door to wholesale changes to the Constitution, a move that could threaten basic freedoms and liberties.

When the U.S. Constitution has needed amending in the past, Congress and at least three-fourths of the states voted to approve a specific amendment. Now, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and similar groups are pushing an alternate, untested approach to amending the Constitution, which requires two-thirds of state legislatures to approve resolutions calling for a Constitutional Convention. Once that threshold is reached, Congress must convene a Constitutional Convention. Read more

Categories: Blog, constitution | Comments Off on To Observe Constitution Day, Protect Constitution from Threat of Convention

Budget Bill Boosts Property Taxes for Thousands of Low-income Households

Thursday, September 14, 2017 at 2:36 PM by
Despite the claims of state lawmakers that the biennial budget bill cuts property taxes, the actions of those policymakers will increase property taxes for thousands of low-income Wisconsin households. The budget bill does that by significantly reducing funding for the Homestead Tax Credit, which was designed to provide targeted property tax relief to low-income homeowners and renters. A new Wisconsin Budget Project summary of tax changes in the budget bill describes some of the major items, which include more than $400 million of tax cuts. But the bill cuts funding and eligibility for the Homestead Credit, and the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) rejected the Governor’s proposal to increase the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit.
Categories: 2017-19 biennial budget, Blog, ECONOMIC SECURITY, Homestead credit, property tax | Comments Off on Budget Bill Boosts Property Taxes for Thousands of Low-income Households

Wisconsin Voters Understand Importance of Making Public Investments in Education, Health Care

Thursday, June 29, 2017 at 11:15 AM by

Wisconsin voters want the state to make additional investments in K-12 education and health coverage and are willing to pay more in taxes to pay for it, according to a new poll conducted by Marquette University.

The poll showed that K-12 education was voters’ highest priority for increased state spending, with 62% of respondents picking it as the first or second highest priority. Health coverage came next, with 52% of respondents indicating it was among their highest priorities. Road construction and maintenance came in third, with 42% choosing it as a high priority. Fewer voters identified state aid to local governments, the UW System, and prisons and the criminal justice system as their highest priorities.

Most voters said they’d be willing to pay more in taxes to increase state spending on their highest priority. More than 6 out of ten respondents (61%) indicated a willingness to pay more for programs and services that were the most important to them. Read more

Categories: 2017-19 biennial budget, Blog, STATE BUDGET | Comments Off on Wisconsin Voters Understand Importance of Making Public Investments in Education, Health Care

Out of Sync: Wisconsin Lawmakers Still in Search of Agreement on Major Components of State Budget

Friday, June 23, 2017 at 10:09 AM by

After several weeks of deliberating, Wisconsin lawmakers have settled large chunks of the state budget but are still working out disagreements in the areas of K-12 education, transportation finance, and taxes.

In the meantime, Assembly Republicans have released their own version of a K-12 education budget. A new summary by the Wisconsin Budget Project compares the Assembly version to Governor Walker’s proposed education budget, highlighting the areas in which the two versions are different. The Assembly version allocates about $90 million less in state funding overall to K-12 schools and would result in slightly higher taxes for property owners compared to the Governor’s budget. Education advocates generally favor the Governor’s budget over the Assembly’s version.

In an effort to come to agreement, Assembly and Senate leaders have been meeting behind closed doors to discuss the education budget, and news reports indicate they are close to reaching an agreement.

On Thursday, Democrats released their own plan, which would allocate significantly more funding to schools. Read more

Trump Budget Demonstrates the Perils of Changing Medicaid

Wednesday, May 24, 2017 at 5:39 PM by

Medicaid Cut Projected to Be 45% in 2026, and More in Future Years

In order to pay for huge tax cuts for corporations and wealthy Americans, the President is proposing massive Medicaid cuts – far beyond the amounts contained in the House plan to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act.

Whereas the House-passed bill is now projected to cut Medicaid by $834 billion over the next 10 years, the Trump budget unveiled this week would cut Medicaid by about $1.3 trillion, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).  The following bar graph illustrates how those cuts would get deeper over time. Read more

New Income Tax Proposal Overwhelmingly Favors Highest Earners

Thursday, May 11, 2017 at 8:02 AM by

Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly have proposed a package of tax cuts that would give extremely large tax breaks to earners with the highest incomes, while shutting out Wisconsin residents with low incomes.

The tax package has multiple components, the largest of which is the gradual flattening of the state’s income tax rates. The proposal would reduce income tax rates over ten years to a flat rate of 3.95%. Currently, the bottom income tax rate is 4.0% and the top marginal rate is 7.65%, so the proposal would result in a 0.05 percentage point reduction in the tax rate for income in the bottom bracket, and a 3.7 percentage point reduction for income in the top bracket.

Wisconsin’s income tax system as it currently stands is progressive, meaning that taxpayers with higher incomes pay a higher share of their income in taxes. The progressive nature of the state’s income tax partially – but not completely – offsets the regressive nature of the state’s sales tax and property tax. Read more

Categories: 2017-19 biennial budget, Blog, income taxes, STATE BUDGET, STATE TAXES | Comments Off on New Income Tax Proposal Overwhelmingly Favors Highest Earners

Wisconsin Lawmakers Indicate a Willingness to Take Money from Education and Health Care to Fund Highways

Thursday, April 27, 2017 at 11:18 AM by

Governor Walker and other state lawmakers have said they are open to redirecting money from a pot intended to support education, health care, and safe communities, and using the money for roads instead. That approach could lead to future budget cuts that damage academic opportunities for Wisconsin schoolchildren, lengthen the amount of time to graduation for University of Wisconsin students, and make it harder for communities to afford important services like trash collection and street cleaning.

State road projects are funded with resources from Wisconsin’s Transportation Fund. About a decade ago, state lawmakers froze the gas tax on each gallon of gas sold – the main source of revenue for the Transportation Fund – and inflation has eaten away at the tax’s value since then, shrinking the amount of resources available to build and maintain Wisconsin’s transportation network. The result is that there is not currently nearly enough money coming into the Transportation Fund to pay for all the highway projects lawmakers want. Read more

Public Money for Private Schools Gets a Boost in Governor Walker’s Budget

Tuesday, April 25, 2017 at 9:25 AM by

Governor Walker has proposed significantly increasing resources for Wisconsin’s public schools, a move that has gotten a great deal of attention – and has attracted some controversy for the size of the increase. But his budget also includes a major increase in the amount of public money that goes to pay for private school tuition, a fact that has been mostly overlooked.

Through the state’s private school choice program, Wisconsin uses publicly-funded vouchers to pay tuition at private schools across the state. To participate in the program, students must have family incomes of up to 300% of the poverty level if they live in Milwaukee or Racine (about $73,000 for a family of four) or of up to 185% of the poverty level if they live in the rest of the state ($45,000 for a family of four). About 36,000 students are expected to receive publicly-funded vouchers to pay for private school tuition next year. Read more

Categories: 2017-19 biennial budget, Blog, EDUCATION, K-12 | Comments Off on Public Money for Private Schools Gets a Boost in Governor Walker’s Budget