Other Publications

Focus Newsletter

  1. 26.

    Focus Newsletter - November 30, 2016  •  Vol. 2016 No. 24New state report raises curtain on Wisconsin’s 2017-19 budget prospects

    Wisconsin’s budget process kicks off every two years in November when the state releases an initial revenue forecast and summarizes agency spending requests. The latest edition of the November report shows growth in tax... Read More

  2. 27.

    Focus Newsletter - November 23, 2016  •  Vol. 2016 No. 23Taxes, guns, cola and carbon: The election in 34 other states

    Unlike Wisconsin, decisions on legislation in many other states can be made by referendum. This November, voters in 34 states considered 154 statewide ballot questions. Many were familiar: Tax changes and borrowing requests are always... Read More

  3. 28.

    Focus Newsletter - November 4, 2016  •  Vol. 2016 No. 22City-village fiscal facts for municipal budget time

    Since the mid-90s, municipalities have faced declining state aid and tightening state-imposed levy limits. As a result, recent property tax increases have generally been under 2% per year. Figures for the 2010-14 period show that per... Read More

  4. 29.

    Focus Newsletter - October 26, 2016  •  Vol. 2016 No. 21AFR gives info, insights into state taxes, spending, and fiscal health

    Wisconsin’s “Annual Fiscal Report,” which summarizes state finances for the prior year, comes out in mid-October. The 2016 edition shows tax collections grew 3.8% in FY16, although their growth has generally slowed... Read More

  5. 30.

    Focus Newsletter - October 10, 2016  •  Vol. 2016 No. 20Toward a better politics? Options for disillusioned and alienated voters

    History may show that the 2016 campaign set records for unbecoming discourse and voter dissatisfaction. Those seeking a new direction could examine a variety of election reforms, including nonpartisan redistricting; an end to party... Read More

  6. 31.

    Focus Newsletter - September 30, 2016  •  Vol. 2016 No. 19Transportation financing (II): Debt exacerbates state challenge

    For years, Wisconsin has had a problem matching transportation “wants” with available revenues. Gas taxes and vehicle registration fees, the main sources of transportation fund support, are not growing. Meanwhile, past and... Read More

  7. 32.

    Focus Newsletter - September 30, 2016  •  Vol. 2016 No. 18Transportation financing (I): The local impact

    State and local road funding will be central to the 2017-19 state budget debate. Stagnant state aid funding, state-mandated local property tax limits, and local street maintenance needs are prompting some counties and municipalities to... Read More

  8. 33.

    Focus Newsletter - August 29, 2016  •  Vol. 2016 No. 17Status of Wisconsin cities and villages (II): Citizen engagement

    Due to lack of opposition, about half of state assembly and three-fourths of state senate members are known before the fall election. A new WISTAX study finds that lack of electoral choice is even more of a problem at the municipal... Read More

  9. 34.

    Focus Newsletter - August 29, 2016  •  Vol. 2016 No. 16Status of Wisconsin cities and villages (I): Fiscal and economic health

    A new WISTAX study examines the state of Wisconsin’s roughly 600 cities and villages. During 2011-14, their property taxes grew 5.2%, while their state aids fell 7.5%. Spending for public safety and, to a higher degree, streets... Read More

  10. 35.

    Focus Newsletter - August 2, 2016  •  Vol. 2016 No. 15Property values up 3% statewide, still trail pre-recession peak

    Preliminary figures from the Wis. Dept. of Revenue show that taxable property statewide had a 2016 value of $505.1 billion (b), up 3.0% from 2015. That remains slightly below the pre-recession high of $514.4b. Appreciation around the... Read More

  11. 36.

    Focus Newsletter - July 29, 2016  •  No. 14State budgets vulnerable to economic slowdown, forecast error

    Stable budgets depend on economic growth and accurate revenue forecasts. If a state lacks emergency reserves, an economic or political shock can lead to a deficit. New “Fed” estimates suggest a softening economy. A national... Read More

  12. 37.

    Focus Newsletter - July 22, 2016  •  Vol. 2016 No. 13Legislative Council committees tackle the tough issues

    When state lawmakers encounter complex issues that can’t be easily resolved during a regular session, they sometimes turn to Legislative Council study committees to develop recommendations. Consisting of both legislators and the... Read More

  13. 38.

    Focus Newsletter - June 30, 2016  •  No. 12How have schools here and elsewhere weathered economic and fiscal storms?

    New Census data through 2014 shed light on K-12 expenditures. In 2002, Wisconsin spent $8,574 per pupil, 11.3% more than the U.S. ($7,701). The difference between the two was due to benefits: Wisconsin spent $2,070 per pupil, or 57%... Read More

  14. 39.

    Focus Newsletter - June 21, 2016  •  No. 11Historic July 4 speeches: Presidents Roosevelt and Reagan

    To mark civic holidays, WISTAX occasionally reprints historic documents. In two of the most memorable July 4 addresses, Presidents Franklin Roosevelt (D) and Ronald Reagan (R) invoked common purpose and shared sacrifice to... Read More

  15. 40.

    Focus Newsletter - June 13, 2016  •  No. 10They’re off: State legislative candidates set for August primary, fall general

    With papers filed, Wisconsin candidates have kicked off the 2016 campaign. Despite reported high voter interest nationally, only 224 hopefuls filed for 115 state legislative seats —the lowest number since at least 2000. In 41... Read More

  16. 41.

    Focus Newsletter - May 31, 2016  •  No. 9Final property tax numbers for 2016

    Gross property taxes to be collected this year rose 2.3% to $10.6b. School taxes, the single largest share of the levy at almost 46%, increased 2.0%, as did counties (20% of the total). Municipalities accounted for 25% of total levies... Read More

  17. 42.

    Focus Newsletter - May 17, 2016  •  No. 8“Scoop and toss”: State again uses financial move to push debt into future

    In the past two decades, governors have restructured state debt in a way that generates funds for the cash-strapped general fund in the short-term while increasing state borrowing costs in the long run. Since 2000, these debt maneuvers... Read More

  18. 43.

    Focus Newsletter - May 9, 2016  •  No. 7School districts exceeding state revenue limits by referendum, or . . .

    For more than 20 years, state law has imposed revenue limits on school districts that local voters could increase by referendum.  Until 2010, passage was a 50-50 proposition, but approval rates have since increased, topping 80%... Read More

  19. 44.

    Focus Newsletter - April 15, 2016  •  No. 6Could national politics affect state balance of power and 2017-19 budget?

    Republicans control both houses of the legislature with comfortable majorities. However, if the presidential race now in disarray alters customary turnout and party preference patterns, the result could have ripple effects... Read More

  20. 45.

    Focus Newsletter - March 29, 2016  •  No. 5State income tax story: Lessons about rates, wants, and inflation

    Wisconsin created the first state income tax in 1911. After 50 years, collections topped $150 million; today, they exceed $7 billion.  Collections surged during the 1960-2000 period. Revenue wants grew, marginal tax rates... Read More

  21. 46.

    Focus Newsletter - March 18, 2016  •  No. 4“Perpetuation of our Political Institutions” - A. Lincoln, 1838

    To promote active, informed citizenship, we occasionally reprint important historical documents. In January 1838, Abraham Lincoln, then just 28, addressed the Young Men’s Lyceum in Springfield, IL. Aware that pro-slavery mobs... Read More

  22. 47.

    Focus Newsletter - February 26, 2016  •  No. 3On the Sockeye surge, pander bears, and the federal income tax

    The federal income tax had 148.7 million filers and generated almost $1.4 trillion in revenue during the last tax season. The bulk of the filers (62.3%) had incomes under $50,000, while almost half (48.4%) of the income was reported by... Read More

  23. 48.

    Focus Newsletter - February 16, 2016  •  No. 2The state of the state and its economy: Multiple perspectives

    Early each year, Wisconsin incumbents, both state and local, deliver “state of the . . .” messages. While these are usually political, other sources offer a more balanced view. Federal personal income figures show Wisconsin... Read More

  24. 49.

    Focus Newsletter - January 11, 2016  •  No. 1County levies up 2%; total property taxes statewide up slightly more

    Based on levy increases of 2.1% for schools, 2.4% for technical colleges, and 2.0% for counties, it is estimated that 2015-16 property taxes statewide will increase about 2.2% when figures are finalized this spring. After state tax... Read More

  25. 50.

    Focus Newsletter - December 31, 2015  •  No. 26Alphabet soup: New state CAFR shows increased “GAAP deficit”

    The state controller has released Wisconsin’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for 2015. Unlike state budgets susceptible to accounting tricks, the CAFR follows generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). It shows the... Read More

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