What's New

  • WISTAX and Public Policy Forum to Merge

    The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance and The Public Policy Forum are merging. For more than 85 years, these two highly respected organizations have shared a mission of providing informed, nonpartisan analysis of critical policy issues affecting local governments, school districts, and the State of Wisconsin. The new organization will offer increased staff capacity, broader research capabilities, and an enhanced platform to even better engage and inform policymakers and citizens. Over the next several months, we will move forward thoughtfully to ensure we maximize the potential of the new organization while also creating a seamless transition for our stakeholders. We will continue to update this page with new information as it becomes available.

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  • TAXPAYER: Checks, Balances, and Shared Power: Federal, State, and Local Gov'ts Follow Same Pattern

    State and local government in Wisconsin follows the template created by the U.S. Constitution. Power is shared between three coequal branches - executive, legislative, and judicial - and dispersed among the state and local governments. A closer look at state and local taxes and spending shows how each level of government plays a separate and distinct role in providing public services.

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  • FOCUS: State-local taxes: Wisconsin’s place in the 50-state pecking order

    According to Census Bureau figures just out for 2015, Wisconsin’s state-local tax burden has drifted down from ranking third in 1994 to 21st in 2015. The state relies principally on three taxes: a largely local property tax, a mostly state sales tax, and a state income tax. Property and income taxes are 11% to 12% above the U.S. average; the sales tax is about 17% below average.

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  • FOCUS: Pulling fingers from the property-tax pie: Tax reform in Wisconsin

    While Washington loudly talks the tax reform talk, with no promise of success, Wisconsin has quietly walked the property-tax reform walk by eliminating any state use of the tax and positioning it to end technical college and personal property taxes in a future state budget. Had that been in place now, levies would be about 7% lower and the number of governments using the tax less.

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  • FOCUS: First look “under the hood” (II): New 2017-19 state budget

    Disputes over transportation funding were the major factor in delaying the 2017-19 state budget. While the new budget reduces highway borrowing compared to prior budgets, it spends down most of a $145 million surplus, taps the general fund, delays several high-profile projects in the Milwaukee area, and likely sets the stage for a replay of the 2015 and 2017 “road wars” in 2019.

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  • FOCUS: First look “under the hood” (I): New 2017-19 state budget

    After a summer-long delay, Wisconsin has a new biennial budget. Before vetoes, it increases general fund spending 8.5% from an estimated $31.32 billion (b) in 2015-17 to $34.0b in 2017-19. The budget devotes about $2b in new revenues principally to three areas: school aids, Medicaid, and property tax relief. However, it spends $246.6 million more next year than estimated revenues.

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Decisions Made, Questions Deferred

Disagreement over transportation delayed approval of a state budget for 12 weeks. A compromise between the governor, senate Republicans, and assembly Republicans delayed any long-term solution on transportation finance in favor of a new fee on electric and hybrid vehicles, limited borrowing for roads, and delayed projects. Over the next two years, general fund spending is rising 4.2% in 2018 and 4.4% in 2019. Nearly all of new general fund spending is for K-12 school aids, property tax relief, and Medicaid.

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Order now! The NEW Framework of Your Wisconsin Government - 19th Edition!

The Framework of Your Wisconsin Government is the only textbook that specifically teaches Wisconsin state and local government. Now in its 19th edition, the Framework has been the go-to text for more than 60 years for high school and college teachers, civic groups, and anyone who wants to learn more about how state and local government operate.
In 11 easy-to-read chapters with full-color photos and graphics, the Framework covers topics including:

  • Wisconsin history, population and economy;
  • State constitution, legislative, executive and judicial branches;
  • State budget and taxes;
  • Counties, cities, villages, and towns; their organization, duties, and funding sources;
  • K-12 schools and higher education institution;
  • Property taxes and other local taxes; and,
  • NEW in 2017: Native American Tribes and state-tribal relations.

Order your copy today!

State Debt Growth Slowing

State Debt and Annual Pct. Change

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