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Focus Newsletter

Focus Newsletter The issue that may disappear: Sales taxes and the Internet

April 2, 2014  •  Vol. 2014 No. 5
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Researchers put Wisconsin’s 2012 sales tax losses from Internet sales at as much as $140 million. However, with over 30% of Internet sales not subject to Wisconsin tax and a surprising number of online retailers already... Read More


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    Focus Newsletter - March 10, 2014  •  Vol. 2014 No. 4Lessons for today from an exemplary life of past public service

    James R. “Jim” Morgan passed away in mid-February after devoting over 40 years to the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, including 23 years as its president. His exemplary life of selfless service to the people of Wisconsin and... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - February 25, 2014  •  Vol. 2014 No. 3Explaining legislative differences

    Gov. Scott Walker (R) last month offered a plan to reduce a projected state surplus with property and income tax cuts. However, a senate-assembly disagreement delayed action. Some pointed to personality differences between leaders. But... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - January 30, 2014  •  Vol. 2014 No. 2Money makes the (political) world go round

    Wisconsin state government is now expected to collect $856.4 million more in taxes than previously thought. Governor Scott Walker (R) outlined a plan to use the extra money, including $406 million in property tax cuts and $136 million... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - January 14, 2014  •  Vol. 2014 No. 1Raise the sales tax--or give it a holiday?

    While there’s talk of higher sales taxes to permit income or property tax cuts, a few lawmakers are moving in a different direction, proposing a sales tax holiday on selected items. Advocates suggest it will boost the economy,... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - December 30, 2013  •  Vol. 2013 No. 26Surplus or deficit? The fiscal games state politicians play

    Whether Wisconsin runs a surplus or a deficit largely depends on whether politicians are “in” or “out” of power. Enough state fiscal information exists from different sources that politicians can cherry-pick what... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - December 20, 2013  •  Vol. 2013 No. 25Whoville after the Grinch: A light parable for the holidays

    After the Grinch realized that Christmas didn’t come from a store and his “small heart grew three sizes,” he and his dog, Max, retired quietly in Whoville. Then, for the first time in memory, members of the Whoville... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - November 30, 2013  •  Vol. 2013 No. 24New property tax bills for 2013-14 (II): Counties, techs up about 1%

    Wisconsin’s 72 counties are levying $2.01 billion in property taxes in 2013-14, 1.2% more than during the previous year. Levies among the state’s 16 technical college districts total $796.7 million, a 1.3% increase. Annual... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - November 29, 2013  •  Vol. 2013 No. 23New property tax bills for 2013-14 (I): School levies total $4.7 billion

    Property tax levies in Wisconsin’s 424 school districts are up 0.8% to $4.69 billion. Over the three years since 2011, total school taxes have grown less than 0.1%. State-imposed revenue limits play a key role in limiting the tax... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - November 12, 2013  •  Vol. 2013 No. 22Fiscal myopia (II): Could Wisconsin return to the “lost decade”?

    During its “lost decade” of 2001-11, Wisconsin maintained minimal budget reserves and was vulnerable to the vagaries of the economy and tax collections. The result was both tax hikes and spending cuts. In recent years,... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - October 31, 2013  •  Vol. 2013 No. 21Fiscal myopia (I): Denying debt in D.C.

    In recent months, especially October, the inability of federal and state elected officials to make decisions that favored long-term fiscal benefits over short-term political ones was on display. Federal debt now exceeds 70% of US... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - October 10, 2013  •  Vol. 2013 No. 20Beyond redistricting? Ending party primaries and other ideas for discussion

    Although some news editors urge legislative redistricting reform, other observers wonder whether it goes far enough. One idea that would increase competition and voter choice in both primary and general elections is... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - September 30, 2013  •  Vol. 2013 No. 19Legislative redistricting: Partisan mischief, or democracy in action?

    Some state news editors and citizen groups are urging the Wisconsin legislature to reform redistricting, a process that occurs every ten years. Those defending the status quo maintain that elected lawmakers, rather than unelected... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - September 18, 2013  •  Vol. 2013 No. 18Wisconsin’s annual report card: How competitive are we?

    Wisconsin’s only annual report card just came out. Prepared by WISTAX researchers for the past 15 years, it shows state per capita income trailing the US by 5.1% in 2012. That gap was wider (6.8%) during the recession but closed... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - September 12, 2013  •  Vol. 2013 No. 17Hindsight: The recession’s effects on schools here, elsewhere

    How state finances and local schools fared nationwide during and after the last downturn can finally be determined from new Census figures through 2011. During 2008-11, per pupil school spending in Wisconsin rose 10.2% compared to 2.9%... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - August 22, 2013  •  Vol. 2013 No. 16Fifth (and final?) year for property value decline

    New state figures show that the full-market (or “equalized”) value of property in Wisconsin fell 0.8% to $467.5 billion. Between 2008 and 2013, values are now off 9.1%. No county showed dramatic appreciation this past year;... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - August 13, 2013  •  Vol. 2013 No. 15Government spending in Wisconsin compared to other states

    State-local government expenditures claimed 22.1% of Wisconsin’s personal income, according to figures for 2011 just released by the US Census Bureau. This was 5.1% above the US average (21.0%) and 20th highest among the states.... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - July 31, 2013  •  Vol. 2013 No. 14New Census figures provide updated tax rankings

    Probably the most common tool for comparing state-local tax burdens is annual collection information released by the US Census Bureau two years “after the fact.” Figures for fiscal 2011 came out in mid-July. They show... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - July 24, 2013  •  Vol. 2013 No. 13Beyond numbers: The partisan political uses of state budgets

    Most people see the state budget as a fiscal document. For state politicians, however, it is decidedly political, especially when one party controls state government. Both Democrats in 2009-10 and Republicans since have had... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - July 18, 2013  •  Vol. 2013 No. 12The 2013-15 state budget (II): Bottom lines

    Now law, the state's 2013-15 budget authorizes $68.3 billion in expenditures from all sources, plus over $2 billion in bonding. Spending from the main general fund totals $30.2 billion with estimated increases of 3.7% or more in... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - June 26, 2013  •  Vol. 2013 No. 11The 2013-15 state budget (I): A first look at two key numbers

    “Save before you spend” and “don’t spend more than you earn” are two pieces of advice financial planners share with those trying to put their household finances in order. Though simple, this counsel is... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - May 30, 2013  •  Vol. 2013 No. 10The policy and politics of proposed state tax reform

    A second-term state representative proposes major income tax simplification that would cut all tax rates, reducing general fund tax collections by $420 million; shrink the number of tax brackets to three; and eliminate a host of tax... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - May 20, 2013  •  Vol. 2013 No. 9Federal health reform and the state’s difficult Medicaid choice (II)

    The 2013-15 state budget decides how to provide Medicaid to the poor in the wake of the Affordable Care Act. One approach follows ACA, extends coverage to more uninsured adults at higher cost, and funds it with increased federal aid.... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - May 20, 2013  •  Vol. 2013 No. 8Federal health reform and the state’s difficult Medicaid choice (I)

    With the January start of the federal Affordable Care Act, Wisconsin must rethink its Medicaid program as part of the 2013-15 state budget process. To what degree should the state adopt the federal approach? Where should it be more or... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - April 30, 2013  •  Vol. 2013 No. 7After the rush: Who pays the Wisconsin income tax?

    Who paid what during the recent income tax filing season will not be known for months, but information from state returns filed during 2012 is suggestive. Half of filers (51.4%) had 2011 adjusted gross incomes below $30,000 and paid... Read More

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