Tax Breaks Abound in Wisconsin, but Job Growth Remains Slow

Friday, May 2, 2014 at 1:05 PM by

Wisconsin lawmakers have cut taxes 43 times since 2011, reducing revenue by $1.9 billion over that period and limiting investments in Wisconsin’s schools, workforce, and transportation networks. Despite – or because of – the substantial tax cuts, private sector job growth in Wisconsin has been slower than the national average.

The largest tax cuts over the four year period include:

  • The income tax cut included in the 2013-15 budget, which reduced revenue by $647.9 million over this period;
  • The January 2014 property tax cut, which reduced revenue by $406.0 million;
  • A tax break for businesses hiring new employees, $134.0 million;
  • A tax cut that will nearly eliminate income taxes for manufacturers once it is fully phased in, $126.6 million; and
  • A tax cut for multi-state corporations that allows them to shift some income to states with no income tax, $126.4 million.

The Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, a nonpartisan agency, put together a list of all the tax changes enacted since January 2011. You can read the memo here. In addition to the 43 tax cuts, the legislature approved 10 tax increases over this period, most of which are smaller than $5 million and take the form of eliminating or phasing out specific business tax credits.

Unfortunately, tax cuts haven’t led to job growth in Wisconsin. The rate of private sector job growth in Wisconsin has fallen significantly below that of other states since the fall of 2011, as shown in the chart below. Wisconsin simply isn’t keeping up in terms of job creation.


Not only have the tax cuts not created jobs, they have made it harder for Wisconsin to build a strong economy, by reducing the revenue that Wisconsin needs to invest in schools, transportation, safe communities, and other tried-and-true building blocks of economic growth. In 2014, tax cuts drained state coffers of $1.2 billion – about the same amount of money that the state spent on the University of Wisconsin System – in money from the General Fund. Imagine the job growth Wisconsin could sustain if we had put those resources to use making sure we have a highly-educated workforce that can compete in a global economy.

Tamarine Cornelius

3 Responses to “Tax Breaks Abound in Wisconsin, but Job Growth Remains Slow”

  1. Jerry says:

    With all these tax cuts what has been the overall debt increase through borrowing and refinancing of existing debt and not making debt payments as they came due since 2011? Does the Legislative Fiscal Bureau report on our debt level on a periodic basis or how does one access that data?

  2. […] We recently covered how huge tax cuts in Kansas have hurt its economy. Now, there’s evidence from just north of the border. In Wisconsin, recent large tax cuts have failed to improve job growth. In fact, job growth slowed markedly in the state after the tax cuts were enacted. According to the Wisconsin Budget Project: […]

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