Wisconsin lawmakers have introduced a resolution calling for a Constitutional convention, a course of action that could ultimately jeopardize basic principles enshrined in the U.S. Constitution if enough states pass similar resolutions.
The resolution (SJR 18, introduced in the Wisconsin State Senate on March 16, 2017) asks Congress to assemble a convention to consider amendments to the U.S. Constitution related to federal spending. The resolution is co-sponsored by 12 Senators, out of 33 total State Senators, and 40 Representatives, out of 99 total.
With Wisconsin’s resolution now introduced in the legislature, the once-seemingly implausible idea of a Constitutional Convention has moved a little closer. The U.S. Constitution specifies that a convention to amend the Constitution may be called by Congress if two-thirds of the states pass resolutions calling for one. Proponents of a convention say that 28 states of the 34 needed have passed resolutions – although the process for determining what states should be included in that total is not clear, and Congress is the final arbiter as to whether the threshold has been reached. Read more
Missed Opportunity: Proposed Performance Measures for UW System Won’t do Much to Open Doors for Underserved Students
Governor Walker has proposed a modest increase in state support to the UW System in the 2017-19 budget period, with the additional resources to be distributed among campuses based on how well they score on a certain set of criteria. Those measures could penalize institutions that have been most effective in enrolling underrepresented students and provide a disincentive for campuses to admit low-income students, first-generation students, or other students who may take longer to graduate.
Wisconsin is one of several states moving to outcomes-based funding as a way of distributing some higher education funding among institutions. In his budget proposal, Governor Walker proposed adding $43 million over two years in new funding for the UW System, to be distributed among the institutions using the following set of criteria:
- Affordability and attainability of degrees (used to distribute 30% of the performance-based funding);
- Student success in the workforce (30%);
- Student work readiness (15%);
- Operational efficiency (10%);
- Outreach (5%); and
- Two additional criteria to be set by the Board of Regents (10%).
Governor Walker has proposed significantly increasing state support for public schools, but the bulk of the increase would be distributed to school districts in a way that does not take into account the challenges faced by districts with high numbers of students coming from families with low incomes.
We don’t yet have the full details on what the Governor is proposing for the state’s education budget, but he released a brief summary earlier this week. His budget proposal includes additional funding at aimed addressing the challenges of rural schools, increasing student achievement in summer school programs in Milwaukee, and helping school districts connect students with disabilities to employment. (Read more about his education proposals in this AP article: Walker Proposes Big $649 Million Boost for K-12 Schools.)
By far the biggest component of the education proposal is an increase in the amount of financial support that the state provides to school districts. Read more
Mediocre Revenue Projections Beat the Low Expectations
A modest upturn in the state revenue projections and a significant reduction in state spending estimates have created a much better outlook for the state budget.
Before elaborating on the latest numbers, which were released by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) last week, I have to admit that the new state tax collection numbers are considerably better than I expected when I wrote a very cautionary blog post about the next state budget a week or so ago. This is one of two recent occasions (along with my prediction that the Packers would lose to Dallas) when I am very happy to have been wrong.
Although the new revenue forecasts are also significantly better than the Department of Revenue projected two months ago, they are nothing to brag about. In fact, the latest tax collection estimate for the current fiscal year is $281 million less than the estimate that the biennial budget bill was based on. Read more
1. Compared to other states, Wisconsin has a lean public sector
Wisconsin had 2.1% fewer state and local government employees than the national average in 2015 given our population size, according to a new analysis from the Wisconsin Budget Project. Wisconsin had a leaner public sector than all but 15 states. Read more
January 18th UPDATE: Sometimes it feels good to be wrong — like when the Packers outperform my pessimistic predictions and when new state revenue forecasts are stronger than I anticipated. So I’m very happy that the revised revenue projections released this afternoon by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) are considerably better than I expected when I wrote our Jan. 17th blog post. (Read more here.)
The new LFB numbers indicate that a combination of lower-than-expected spending and higher-than-expected tax revenue will be enough to maintain a comfortable budget balance in the current fiscal year, and also enough to fund the amounts requested by state agencies in the next biennium. That’s a huge relief after the very slow revenue growth from July through November, which suggested that the next estimate of revenue collections was likely to be down, rather than up. This year’s revised revenue collections are still below the level forecasted a year ago, but are now expected to be considerably stronger in the next biennium than the Department of Administration estimated in November. Read more
When Wisconsin residents drive on the highway, send their child off to school, or go to the doctor, they are benefitting from federal money spent in Wisconsin that supports a broad range of services. Under a new Congress, Wisconsin may be at risk of losing some of that federal money, making it more difficult for Wisconsin to provide the services that make the state a great place to live, work, and do business.
Wisconsin’s two-year budget that runs from July 2015 to June 2017 includes $21 billion in federal spending. In fact, out of every dollar the state spends in the budget, 29¢ comes from the federal government. Keep in mind that amount, though significant, understates the importance of federal money coming into the state. That’s because that $21 billion figure doesn’t include billions in federal resources that are delivered directly to Wisconsin residents or companies, such as Social Security payments, defense contracts, and the federal Earned Income Tax Credit. Read more
Very Slow Tax Growth Suggests Budget Difficulties Ahead
New tax collection numbers that were released late on December 23 do not bode well for the Wisconsin budget. The November tax figures released by the Department of Revenue (DOR) late last Friday – a week after negative job numbers – suggest significant challenges ahead for state budget writers.
I’m not sure whether DOR released the tax collection data just a couple of hours before the Christmas break in order to avoid public notice, but if that was their plan it worked very well. There doesn’t seem to have been any media coverage of the new numbers. Read more
Wisconsin lawmakers are struggling with how to address a shortfall in the pot of money that the state uses to build and repair highways. There are several possible solutions, but one course of action should be off the table: siphoning off resources slated to pay for the education of Wisconsin schoolchildren or helping people with low incomes get the medical care they need, and redirecting that money to pay for highways.
State lawmakers are in a bind because there is not nearly enough money in the state’s Transportation Fund to keep planned highway projects on schedule. That shortfall is largely due to the fact that Wisconsin’s gas tax has been frozen for the past decade, with inflation eating away at the value of the tax and causing a slow decline in the gas tax revenues into the Transportation Fund.
There are a variety of opinions among lawmakers about how to solve this dilemma. Read more