Focus Newsletter Wisconsin’s only “report card” assesses state competitive position
July 30, 2014 • Vol. 2014 No. 14
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For the 15th consecutive year, WISTAX researchers have prepared an annual report card assessing state performance on 33 measures ranging from state finances and tax burden to school outcomes and firm creation. Over the past five years,... Read More
Focus Newsletter - July 16, 2014 • Vol. 2014 No. 13Spending and saving, 2013-15: Comparing the 50 states
During the recession, states cut spending and raided reserves. With the uneven recovery, they slowly returned to budget stability. In fiscal 2014 and 2015, the 50 states combined are increasing general fund spending 5.0% and 2.9%,... Read More
Focus Newsletter - June 24, 2014 • Vol. 2014 No. 12State economic growth: Facts to assess candidate rhetoric
Jobs are a focus of the 2014 campaign, but candidate rhetoric on the subject often warrants scrutiny. Voters might want to know that Wisconsin’s economic course generally follows the nation’s. During 1998-2013, state gross... Read More
Focus Newsletter - June 12, 2014 • Vol. 2014 No. 11Fall candidate numbers off: Fiscal and political implications?
The slate of legislative candidates for forthcoming state elections is now set. The 2014 campaign features fewer candidates (246) than 2010 (314) or 2012 (297)—indeed the fewest since 2006 (243). Numbers are particularly down for... Read More
Focus Newsletter - June 9, 2014 • Vol. 2014 No. 9Property tax review (I): 2013-14 in context
With all local governments and school districts under some form of state-imposed revenue or tax limit, total net property taxes in Wisconsin grew 1.4% to almost $9.9 billion in 2013-14. The increase was slightly higher than the previous... Read More
Focus Newsletter - June 9, 2014 • Vol. 2014 No. 10Property tax review (II): Municipal levies examined
After school levies, municipal property taxes account for the largest share (24%) of the typical tax bill in Wisconsin. While total gross levies rose 1.3% this year, municipal levies are up 2.0% to $2.55 billion. This is the third... Read More
Focus Newsletter - May 22, 2014 • Vol. 2014 No. 8To spur the economy, Wisconsin will have to import . . . people!
As Wisconsin ages and the“natural” population increase—the difference between births and deaths—shrinks, workforce size and job creation are likely to slow. If the state’s population and economy are to... Read More
Focus Newsletter - April 25, 2014 • Vol. 2014 No. 7State income tax facts: Who files? Who pays?
Examining past tax returns can tell much about Wisconsin’s economic conditions. For example, after declining during the recession, the number of state filers has grown 1.3% per year since 2009. In another encouraging economic... Read More
Focus Newsletter - April 15, 2014 • Vol. 2014 No. 62013-14 legislature: The tax-cut session
The 2013-14 Wisconsin legislature has gone home. More than its six predecessors, this legislature will be remembered for tax cuts. Over the past year, it cut 2013-15 taxes in three rounds by more than $1.2 billion. The cuts were... Read More
Focus Newsletter - April 2, 2014 • Vol. 2014 No. 5The issue that may disappear: Sales taxes and the Internet
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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