Focus Newsletter - March 30, 2005 • Vol. 2005 No. 7Tools for ‘balancing’ unbalanced budgets
In recent years, state budgets have often been “balanced” in name only. Elected officials, regardless of branch or party, have used various tools to “balance” unbalanced budgets, including: statutory changes,... Read More
Focus Newsletter - March 22, 2005 • Vol. 2005 No. 6Wisconsin: ‘Mind the gap’
A new WISTAX report, Measuring Success: Benchmarks for a Competitive Wisconsin, identifies Wisconsin’s performance gaps relative to surrounding states. Areas that merit attention include: taxes, bond ratings, numbers of college... Read More
Focus Newsletter - February 28, 2005 • Vol. 2005 No. 4State superintendent foes offer views
On February 17, the two candidates for state superintendent of public instruction, incumbent Elizabeth Burmaster (Madison) and challenger Gregg Underheim (Oshkosh), answered questions at a forum organized by WisPolitics.com. Responses... Read More
Focus Newsletter - February 14, 2005 • Vol. 2005 No. 3All’s not quiet on the fiscal front
The governor proposes a $25.5-billion (b) general fund budget for 2005-07. It includes a property tax “freeze” funded with $850 million in school tax relief. The budget is “balanced” with over $1b of one-time... Read More
Focus Newsletter - January 31, 2005 • Vol. 2005 No. 2Legislature changes, but slowly
The 2003 and 2005 legislatures are very similar. Of 132 lawmakers, 112 served in the prior session. Compared to 50 years ago, however, the legislature has more women, more minorities and far more college graduates. It also has 50... Read More
Focus Newsletter - January 19, 2005 • Vol. 2005 No. 1State of the state has many uses
The annual rituals of state government have begun. The legislature was sworn in; the governor delivered his state-of-the-state message. As expected, Governor Doyle used the address to propose new policy and to revisit old proposals. But... Read More
Focus Newsletter - December 31, 2004 • Vol. 2004 No. 28Who ultimately pays Wisconsin taxes?
The first study of Wisconsin tax burden since 1979 found our tax system to be proportional to progressive for 99% of households. The income tax was the most progressive levy. Business taxes were proportional and other taxes mostly... Read More
Focus Newsletter - December 20, 2004 • Vol. 2004 No. 27Property tax increases accelerate
WISTAX estimates that net property taxes levied this December for collection in 2005 will be at least 6% over 2004 levels. Last year’s increase was 4.7%. State (8.4%) and school levies (7.3%) are rising the most, followed by... Read More
Focus Newsletter - December 8, 2004 • Vol. 2004 No. 26The Grinch returns: How bad is it?
Recent estimates suggest the state could run a $1.6-billion deficit by mid-2007. Estimated tax collection for 2005-07 will average 4.5% growth annually—well below the 6.8% average of the 1990’s. Budget problems were caused,... Read More
Focus Newsletter - November 15, 2004 • Vol. 2004 No. 25Ballot questions provide answers
On Nov. 2, 34 states voted on 163 referenda. Topics included: same-sex marriage, stem-cell research, gambling and, of course, public finance. Voters opposed general tax increases, but agreed to several “sin tax” hikes,... Read More
Focus Newsletter - November 3, 2004 • Vol. 2004 No. 24A better end to a bad year
A new report recaps state finances for 2003-04, arguably the toughest year in decades. Wisconsin began the year with a $282.2- million (m) deficit and ended it with a $105.2m surplus. Growing revenues and some spending cuts helped, but... Read More
Focus Newsletter - October 25, 2004 • Vol. 2004 No. 23Tax-rate-itis: Is it incurable?
In preparing budgets, local governments and school districts sometimes mislead taxpayers by focusing on proposed property tax rates. Media repetition of taxrate information only confounds the problem. It is better to focus on spending... Read More
Focus Newsletter - October 15, 2004 • Vol. 2004 No. 22Can Bucky win the battle for biotech jobs?
Wisconsin wants to be at the fore-front of the science and technology revolution—and the high- paying jobs it offers. Although the state has some advantages in this area, it is not as strong as many believe. Moreover, there is... Read More
Focus Newsletter - October 4, 2004 • Vol. 2004 No. 21Taxing kids and couples
Tax benefits for families and children are common in income tax law. Tax credits and/or exemptions would save a middle-income family $2,915 in federal taxes and $91 in state taxes. Generally, state law has not kept pace with federal law... Read More
Focus Newsletter - September 24, 2004 • Vol. 2004 No. 20School health costs: Pencils vs. premiums
In 2003-04, the average annual family health insurance premium for a Wisconsin school district was $14,271, 40.7% higher than two years prior. On average, districts pay 97% of premiums for single coverage and 95% for family. Of 426... Read More
Focus Newsletter - September 10, 2004 • Vol. 2004 No. 19Campaign brief: U.S. income taxes
U.S. individual income tax data for 2001 were recently released. They show that 128.8 million filers paid $887.9 billion in taxes. Those with incomes in the “top 5%” of all filers paid 53.3% of the taxes, while those in the... Read More
Focus Newsletter - August 31, 2004 • Vol. 2004 No. 18Tax lessons from the lemonade business
When a small business owner or firm writes a check to pay taxes, who really pays the bill? The customer? The owner or share- holders? The employees? Other taxpayers? Economists say it is a mix of these. “BJ’s Lemonade”... Read More
Focus Newsletter - August 23, 2004 • Vol. 2004 No. 17Property-value growth remains strong
For 2004, equalized property values jumped 8.5% to $30.5 billion. Residential (9.7%) and commercial (8.2%) values continue to lead the way with manufacturing (1.6%) and agriculture (-0.4%) lagging. Counties in the northwest continue to... Read More
Focus Newsletter - August 17, 2004 • Vol. 2004 No. 16Wisconsin expenditures compared
New figures from the U.S. Census Bureau report state-local expenditures for fiscal 2002. Wisconsin spent 21.4% of personal income on public services. This was 16th highest in the U.S. and exceeded U.S. (19.9%) and regional (19.7%)... Read More
Focus Newsletter - July 28, 2004 • Vol. 2004 No. 15New fed figures show true tax ranks
New figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show that, for fiscal year 2002, Wisconsin ranked fifth in total state-local taxes as a share of income. This was down one notch from fourth in fiscal 2000. While our property tax rank rose from... Read More
Focus Newsletter - July 20, 2004 • Vol. 2004 No. 14Winners, losers in sales-school tax trade
A governor’s task force has recommended trading $1.44 billion in new sales taxes for reduced school property taxes. Initial estimates suggest that over half the school districts would end up paying more in sales taxes than they... Read More
Focus Newsletter - July 9, 2004 • Vol. 2004 No. 13Tolls, taxes, fees: No way or new way?
A recent transportation summit in Milwaukee focused on emerging issues in transportation funding. With the Badger State having one of the nation’s highest gas taxes, attendees examined alternative funding sources, including... Read More
Focus Newsletter - June 29, 2004 • Vol. 2004 No. 12State job outlook brightens
New figures show Wisconsin’s economy gaining steam. Since the national jobs recovery started in July 2003, Wisconsin has created more jobs than all but ten states. For the third consecutive month, most counties experienced lower... Read More
Focus Newsletter - June 9, 2004 • Vol. 2004 No. 11After TABOR, what?
With a Colorado-style TABOR amendment fading into history, if there is to be any limit on state-local spending, it is likely to be tied to personal income. During 1986-2002, per capita spending by counties (151%), schools (125%) and... Read More