Wisconsin's individual income tax is the nation's oldest. Last year, it generated $7 billion, far more than other state taxes. A little more than 30 states have "progressive" income taxes. Wisconsin's is unusual due to the rapidity with which its tax rates rise and a standard deduction that disappears as income increases. The result is higher ranking taxes on middle-income filers.
Wisconsin's transportation finance problem is well-known. As it continues unsolved, ironies surrounding the debate emerge. Income and sales tax collections rise almost automatically, fueling general fund spending growth, while the stagnant gas tax leaves the transportation fund cash-poor. The fund's accumulating debt costs and ever-present "jobs" rhetoric from state politicians suggest other ironies.
Wisconsin is seeing a resurgence in school district borrowing. Last year, districts approved a record $1.35 billion in new debt. That was 10 times more than five years ago and the most since at least 1993. Another $707.9 million in borrowing is being requested this spring. Voter approval rates for both borrowing (77.1%) and revenue-limit (81.7%) referenda are near or exceeding 80%.
Total state-local taxes in Wisconsin claimed 10.8% of income in 2014, the lowest percentage since 1962. but 16th highest among the 50 states. The Badger State ranked 21st on total spending. About two-thirds of public sector spending here is either for education, public welfare or roads. During 1993-2014, public welfare spending increased 224%, almost double the rate of all other programs.
Over the next two years, Governor Walker (R) proposes to spend $76.1 billion, $33.9 billion from the general fund. Net general fund spending would rise 8.3% over the next two years, the second largest two-year increase since 2005-07. Some of the new spending is paid for by reducing the projected $453 million surplus to just $82 million in 2019.
State and federal governments impose a variety of taxes that go largely unnoticed but can add up to significant sums. Taxes on gas, tobacco, and alcohol are not seen by consumers, but are paid by them because they are “hidden” in the price. Telephone and electric bills also include a variety of taxes that are unfamiliar to citizens, yet generate millions of dollars.
The 36th edition of our biennial, 24-page Wisconsin Legislative and Congressional Directory is here! In addition to legislative contact information, the directory contains committee chairs, individual maps of the 33 senate districts and with their associated assembly districts, as well as a state map of the eight U.S. congressional districts. The directory includes the name, address, party affiliation, telephone number, and election results for each legislator, and lists legislative leaders, constitutional officers, legislative service agencies, and many state agencies. Order yours today by calling 608.241.9789.
Debt Costs Cut Available Transportation Revenues
Transportation Revenues: Gross and Net of Debt Service