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Focus Newsletter

Focus Newsletter New tax rank information brings surprises from south, west

January 7, 2015  •  Vol. 2015 No. 1
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New tax figures from the US Census released over the holidays brought rare news. Both Illinois (now, 9th) and Minnesota (10th) moved past Wisconsin (12th) in state-local tax burden relative to personal income. Illinois, which in modern... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - December 31, 2014  •  Vol. 2014 No. 26Mind the G-A-A-P: The perpetual deficit is down to $1.4 billion

    Confusion over the size of state general fund surpluses or deficits seems perpetual. Political mischief aside, part of the reason rests with accounting method. Wisconsin budgets on a cash basis but later prepares its financial... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - December 22, 2014  •  Vol. 2014 No. 25Did the state

    The big news on the property tax front this year was the legislature’s attempt to “buy down” levies by appropriating $406 million in additional aid for technical colleges. That resulted in “tech college”... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - October 27, 2014  •  Vol. 2014 No. 21It’s back! Tax-rate-itis hits some local governments, schools

    Every fall, as local government and school budgets are finalized, tax-rate-itis returns. Press releases and news stories announce a freeze or drop in property tax rates, but levies rise. If attention is only on tax rates, rising... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - October 16, 2014  •  Vol. 2014 No. 20State finances (II): Two big questions for candidates

    Forecasting economic performance—and state tax collections—is never exact. Since 2000, the average error in budgeting state tax revenues was $400 million (m), ranging from +$306m in 2013 to -$1,513m in 2009. Maintaining... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - October 13, 2014  •  Vol. 2014 No. 19State finances (I): Deficit candor

    In a two-part series, this and the next issue of Focus advise the press and public to view politicians’ surpluses and deficit claims with caution. By applying the term deficit to future situations that make no assumptions about... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - September 26, 2014  •  Vol. 2014 No. 18A look at school fund balances yields surprises

    The fund balances, or financial reserves, of school districts can help assess their fiscal strength. Over the past 20 years, these reserves have grown fastest when state finances and school funding policy were most uncertain. Since... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - August 29, 2014  •  Vol. 2014 No. 17Candidates for elimination? Property taxes in 2015 (II)

    In addition to technical college property taxes, the legislature is studying ending the personal property tax. The vast majority of personal property once taxed is now exempt. Today, the tax accounts for only 2.5% of all property tax... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - August 29, 2014  •  Vol. 2014 No. 16Candidates for elimination? Property taxes in 2015 (I)

    The property tax is Wisconsin’s oldest, and probably most unpopular tax. Property tax relief has been a campaign promise since statehood. Yet our property taxes remain 11th highest in the US and 25% above average. Special... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - August 22, 2014  •  Vol. 2014 No. 15State’s property values up 2.6% in 2014 but still trail 2008

    Every August, the state releases full-market (“equalized”) value information for property in Wisconsin. In 2014, the state’s total valuation increased 2.6% to $479.5 billion (b). Though modest, this was the first... Read More

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    Focus Newsletter - July 30, 2014  •  Vol. 2014 No. 14Wisconsin’s only “report card” assesses state competitive position

    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

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    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

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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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