Other Publications

Focus Newsletter

  1. 326.

    Focus Newsletter - August 12, 2005  •  Vol. 2005 No. 17Vetoed amendment raises pension issue

    Over 99% of “employee” contributions to the state’s retirement system is actually paid by public employers. Public employees pay a smaller share of their retirement costs in Wisconsin than in any other state. When they... Read More

  2. 327.

    Focus Newsletter - July 29, 2005  •  Vol. 2005 No. 16Limited choices in dialing up a new budget

    Though seemingly complex, the recently enacted 2005-07 state budget can be summarized as a limited series of choices: balancing the funding demands of schools and Medicaid; generating more revenues; cutting expenditures; and resorting... Read More

  3. 328.

    Focus Newsletter - July 8, 2005  •  Vol. 2005 No. 15Death of a district: The ‘perfect storm’

    The Florence school district is poised to dissolve. Years of declining enrollment coupled with soaring property values has the effect of reducing the district’s state aid. With fewer students, fixed costs became burdensome and... Read More

  4. 329.

    Focus Newsletter - June 30, 2005  •  Vol. 2005 No. 14The pulse of property tax discontent

    When property taxes on a median-valued home are calculated for each Wisconsin municipality and compared to that community’s average income, a revealing pattern emerges. Of the 50 municipalities where property taxes exceed 7% of... Read More

  5. 330.

    Focus Newsletter - June 22, 2005  •  Vol. 2005 No. 13Budget magic: Up is down, old is new

    As state budget work winds down, confusing rhetoric from the governor and legislature heats up. Under the budgets they proposed, two-year GPR spending will rise at least 9.6% over the prior biennium, and bonding will approach or exceed... Read More

  6. 331.

    Focus Newsletter - June 10, 2005  •  Vol. 2005 No. 12Budget flap reflects K12-UW priority shift

    In 1973, 22% of state tax spending went to schools and 17% to the UW. Those percentages are now about 40% for schools and 7% for the university. Given this shift, is it time to reexamine the way the UW is funded and governed?   Read More

  7. 332.

    Focus Newsletter - May 31, 2005  •  Vol. 2005 No. 112005 property tax numbers final

    Official property tax figures for 2004-05 just became available. The gross levy rose 6.0%, with schools claiming the largest share (44.3%). Of 1,848 municipalities studied, 25.7% had tax increases of 10% or more. Full-value tax rates... Read More

  8. 333.

    Focus Newsletter - May 13, 2005  •  Vol. 2005 No. 10High cost of frosh failure raises questions

    Of last fall’s 22,500 full-time UW freshmen, 4,500 will not return to their campus in September. The annual cost to students, families and taxpayers of first-year dropout is up to $30 million (m). Lost wages add up to $70m. These... Read More

  9. 334.

    Focus Newsletter - April 27, 2005  •  Vol. 2005 No. 9The most costly and widespread regulation

    Of all government regulations, the individual income tax is the most pervasive, hidden and costly. With governors and legislators adding little-used tax provisions every year, Wisconsin’s tax is increasingly complex. Of 37 pages... Read More

  10. 335.

    Focus Newsletter - April 14, 2005  •  Vol. 2005 No. 8Crocuses and gas taxes

    Some lawmakers recently termed annual inflationary adjustment of the gas tax rate, or “indexing,” as an “unlegislated” tax hike. Since regular gas tax increases began in 1980, gas tax rates were increased more by... Read More

  11. 336.

    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

  12. 337.

    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

  13. 338.

    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

  14. 339.

    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

  15. 340.

    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

  16. 341.

    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

  17. 342.

    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

  18. 343.

    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

  19. 344.

    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

  20. 345.

    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

  21. 346.

    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

  22. 347.

    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

  23. 348.

    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

  24. 349.

    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

  25. 350.

    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

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