Disappointing Tax Collections Could Cut into the State’s Small Reserves
State policymakers got some disappointing budget news this week, when the Department of Revenue (DOR) released state tax collection figures late Thursday. The revenue shortfall doesn’t pose imminent budget problems, and I’m somewhat relieved that the shortfall wasn’t larger, but the drop in the 2015-16 tax revenue might pose a problem in the second half of our biennial budget, particularly if the drop is repeated this year.
The new DOR figures show that revenue growth for the last fiscal year (ending on June 30) was $85 million (0.6%) short of the amount projected by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) back in January. That January estimate had already been lowered by $29 million below the amount anticipated when the 2015-17 budget bill was enacted a little over a year ago. Read more
Wisconsin got a very positive jobs report last week, but the apparent good news from the preliminary May data did not carry over to last month’s tax collections. As a result, the state may finish the current fiscal year well below the revenue target included in the budget bill – creating a more precarious situation in the second half of the 2015-17 biennial budget.
The Department of Revenue released the May tax collections figures at about 4:00 on Friday, June 17. As is often the case when those numbers are released late on a Friday, the news wasn’t good. The new DOR figures show the following:
- Tax collections fell by $17.5 million (1.5%) in May, relative to the amount in May 2015.
- Although sales tax collections increased by $25 million compared to the same month of 2015, individual income tax revenue dropped by 6.3% ($31.5 million) last month, and corporate income tax revenue was off by $8.5 million (almost 35%).
Wisconsin residents strongly favor raising taxes on the wealthy and large corporations to reduce income inequality, a new poll shows. But instead of raising taxes on these groups, Wisconsin lawmakers have taken steps to give significant tax breaks to taxpayers with high incomes and corporations.
Two-thirds (66%) of survey respondents support raising taxes on the rich and big businesses, according to the spring 2016 Wisconsin Survey conducted by the Strategic Research Institute at St. Norbert College. Another 28% of respondents did not support raising taxes, and seven percent weren’t sure.
The poll results show that Wisconsin residents are alarmed about growing levels of income inequality and the widening chasm between the highest earners and everyone else. Wisconsin residents are right to be concerned. The share of income in Wisconsin going to the top 1% has reached its highest level ever, exceeding even levels reached prior to the Great Depression, and has more than doubled over the last 40 years. Read more
New tax collection figures released yesterday by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) show a nice upturn in revenue in March, and that comes as a relief after a worrisome drop in February. After the rebound last month, the state is only modestly (0.4%) below the growth rate for the current fiscal year that the Legislative Fiscal Bureau projected in January.
According to the new DOR data, General Fund tax collections grew by $55 million last month, compared to March 2015, an increase of 6.2%. That follows a drop of $91 million (14%) in February. Read more
An Increased EITC for Childless Adults Would Reduce Poverty and Enjoys Bipartisan Support
Income inequality has been on the minds of many voters during the presidential primaries. If you think it’s only a concern of Democrats, take a look at the results of the most recent “Wisconsin Survey” – a St. Norbert’s poll conducted for Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television. The survey last week of 616 registered Wisconsin voters found that 66% favor “increasing taxes on wealthy Americans and large corporations in order to help reduce income inequality in the U.S.,” compared to only 28% who said they were opposed.
There are lots of different ways to adjust taxes (and labor policy) to reduce income inequality. Unfortunately, most of those – such as closing corporate tax loopholes and increasing the minimum wage – have little chance in Congress right now. But one promising policy option that does have a chance is to provide a significant increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for adults who don’t have dependent children. Read more
Today is April 18th, the deadline for most people to file their income tax forms without penalty. (April 15 was a holiday in Washington D.C. this year, pushing off the deadline for filing until today.) We hear a lot of negative messages about taxes on this day. But this Tax Day, let’s remember that creating jobs and building broad-based prosperity requires investing in what works – and we can’t do that without taxes.
To build a strong Wisconsin economy, we need to invest in assets that help businesses thrive and help hard-working people climb into the middle class. That means Wisconsin needs to continue our tradition of supporting high-quality schools and preschools, an affordable university system, a healthy workforce, and a clean environment.
Taxes make these investments possible.
When state lawmakers cut income taxes for the wealthy or for corporations, we undermine our ability to support important services that Wisconsin businesses and residents rely on every day. Read more
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.
Wisconsin’s middle class, once one of the strongest in the country, is shrinking faster than in any other state. Read more
$91 Million Decline in Tax Collections Underscores Need for Increased Transparency
The Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) recently released the tax collection figures for the month of February, and the new numbers show a drop of $91 million for the month, compared to February 2015. That was a drop of 14% in General Fund tax revenue, even though February was one day longer this year.
For first 8 months of the current fiscal year, revenue is up 3.8% compared to the 2014-15 fiscal year. That’s a bit worrisome because the last revenue estimates from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) projected tax growth of about 4.4% for the fiscal year that ends on June 30 (and that estimate had been revised down from the 4.6% increase anticipated when the budget bill was passed).
Unfortunately, the Wisconsin DOR – in contrast to its counterpart in Minnesota – almost never releases month-by-month tax collection projections in conjunction with the actual tax collection figures. Read more
Wisconsin’s budget challenges were exacerbated this year when the Legislative Fiscal Bureau announced in January that state revenue would be substantially less than previously anticipated. That development didn’t stop legislators from introducing a broad range of bills relating to tax cuts, but it significantly limited the number of those tax bills (and spending proposals) that were enacted during the recently ended 2015-16 legislative session.
A new summary of the session describes some of the noteworthy bills relating to taxes that were considered by the legislature, as well as bills related to the budget process that got some traction. As that document explains, only a few of the significant bills were enacted:
- An abridged set of changes to corporate tax laws (Act 218) – We were especially concerned about a wide-ranging set of proposed changes to the corporate tax statutes, which the Dept. of Revenue initially estimated could cost the state as much as $384 million per year!