New Report: How Wisconsin Lawmakers Have Broken with Tradition and Undermined a Legacy of Investment
Four years ago Wisconsin was made a promise. The promise was that the best way to generate economic growth was through significant tax and spending cuts. The tax and spending cuts have occurred, but unfortunately for all of us, the promised job growth has not.
That’s the conclusion of a new Budget Project report released today, called “Breaking with Tradition: How Wisconsin Lawmakers Have Shortchanged a Legacy of Investment in the State’s Future.” The new report reviews the many changes policymakers have made recently in how Wisconsin supports it schools, communities, and workforce.
Lawmakers have made dramatic tax cuts since 2011, totaling $1.9 billion over four years. But the value of the tax cuts was not equitably distributed. Half the value of the major tax cuts packages in 2013 and 2014 went to the top 20% of taxpayers by income, and the remaining 80% shared the other half.
The tax cuts have contributed to deep cuts to public schools and higher education in Wisconsin. Investing resources in education contributes to individual financial success and can help build a strong state economy – yet Wisconsin lawmakers chose to make some of the deepest cuts to public education in the country. Meanwhile, the state has poured additional resources into voucher schools, and has given a separate, hefty tax break for private school tuition.
Rolling back investments in Wisconsin’s schools, communities, and workforce hasn’t done much to boost job growth. Wisconsin has added private sector jobs at a slower pace than the national average in 2011, 2012, and 2013. Wisconsin has also had slower job growth than all of our neighboring states, as shown in the chart below. In fact, in Michigan, private sector employment grew twice as fast over this period as it did in Wisconsin.
To construct a strong economy in Wisconsin, we need to create opportunities for everyone to thrive. Lawmakers should build on our long history of making the kind of investments in our schools and communities that create broad-based prosperity and help make Wisconsin a good place to do business and raise families. We should build on Wisconsin’s legacy of investing in the state’s future, rather than turning away from it.