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
Focus Newsletter - May 31, 2004 • Vol. 2004 No. 10Challenges, choices await new UW head
The UW System will soon have a new president. The fiscal challenges he or she will face are daunting. They include: a shift in priorities of elected officials from higher to K-12 education; record budget cuts and tuition increases in... Read More
Focus Newsletter - May 19, 2004 • Vol. 2004 No. 9Does 33 + 99 still equal representation?
With campaign season near, proposals to reform elections or the legislature will soon surface. Never discussed is the impact the size of the legislature might have in these areas. Our legislature is somewhat smaller than elsewhere, and... Read More
Focus Newsletter - May 7, 2004 • Vol. 2004 No. 8First-grade “flu”?
The number of first graders has dropped in 73% of school districts since 1993. In over one-quarter, declines are 25% or more. The fiscal problems associated with this trend are already impacting school districts. And the effects on high... Read More
Focus Newsletter - April 30, 2004 • Vol. 2004 No. 7Wisconsin income taxes?
For the 2002 tax year, Wisconsin individual income taxpayers filed 2.70 million returns and reported $106.35 billion in adjusted gross income. A majority of filers (55%) had incomes under $30,000. The bulk of taxes (67%) was paid by... Read More
Focus Newsletter - April 22, 2004 • Vol. 2004 No. 6TABOR or not TABOR, Part 3
The spending-limit discussion started last winter with a Colorado-style “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” (TABOR). But state law-makers interested in the issue are now exploring a range of options. The questions are many:... Read More
Focus Newsletter - April 14, 2004 • Vol. 2004 No. 5TABOR or not TABOR, Part 2
Wisconsin does not now formally limit state government taxing or spending, but 27 other states do—13 by statute and 14 in their constitutions. The restrictions in these states vary considerably in approach. Fiscal controls tied to... Read More
Focus Newsletter - April 6, 2004 • Vol. 2004 No. 4TABOR or not TABOR, Part 1
TABOR, or the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, is a state constitutional amendment now in drafting. Because it would limit growth in public expenditures, it is focusing attention on spending trends, while sparking debate pro and con. During... Read More
Focus Newsletter - March 25, 2004 • Vol. 2004 No. 3State “checkup” sees high-tech problem
The only on-going report that “benchmarks” Wisconsin’s competitive position vs. other states is available. News on quality of life is good. However, hopes for a high-tech boom have to confront dropping numbers of... Read More
Focus Newsletter - March 17, 2004 • Vol. 2004 No. 2State budget hits “Groundhog Day” bumps
The 2003-05 budget enacted last July was to put an end to state fiscal problems. With recent news of cost overruns and revenue shortfalls came renewed talk of deficits. As a short-term “fix,” state debt was refinanced. The... Read More