News of the Day

Wisconsin Taxes fall Below the National Average

Wisconsin taxes — once among the nation’s highest — have fallen to just barely below the national average, highlighting the effects of a slow shift that has played out here over a generation.

In Wisconsin in 2014, the state and local taxes paid by residents added up to 10.5% of their income, compared with the 10.6% that state and local taxes took up of Americans’ incomes across the country. The figures come from 2014 U.S. Census data, the most recent available and the first to account for more than $500 million in tax cuts made in the spring of that year by Gov. Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans in the Legislature.

After peaking in 1973 at 14.7% of income, the tax bite in the state has been steadily declining as a share of how much money people here earn, according to figures from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.

Wisconsin is now 22nd highest in the country when measuring taxes against income. Because high-tax states such as New York can skew the national average upward, it’s possible for a state to fall below the national average in taxes but still rank higher than 25th.

State and local taxes in 2014 added up to $4,661 per person in Wisconsin, $214 below the national average of $4,875.

Coalition Formed to Advocate for Worker’s Compensation Reform

On Tuesday, the Worker’s Compensation Employers Coalition, which will advocate for meaningful reforms to Wisconsin’s worker’s compensation laws, was formally launched. The coalition’s forty-six employer associations range from manufacturers to municipalities and farmers to road builders to small business groups, including WIB.

Together, the coalition is calling on lawmakers to support the agreed-bill from the Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council (WCAC), which includes the creation of a medical fee schedule – like forty-four other states have done – to finally reduce Wisconsin’s worker’s compensation medical costs.

The WCAC, a ten-person Department of Workforce Development council that includes employer groups and labor unions, including both WMC and the AFL-CIO, unanimously approved the agreed-bill in August and is expected to send the finalized version to the Legislature soon. If enacted by lawmakers, the fee schedule included in the agreed-bill would bring medical costs down. This would give Wisconsin one more area where the state has a competitive edge.

According to the Worker’s Compensation Research Institute (WCRI), Wisconsin has some of the highest medical costs for worker’s compensation in the nation. In the most recent year they studied, WCRI found Wisconsin costs to be 47 percent higher than the national median. Looking only at serious injuries that required a week off of work, costs were 60 percent higher than the median.

Employers have tried to manage the high costs by investing in safety and reducing injuries. In fact, from 1994 to 2014, workplace injuries dropped a dramatic 58 percent in Wisconsin, falling from approximately 220,000 per year to under 95,000. Unfortunately no cost savings materialized because the medical cost per claim rose over 450 percent over the same time period.


Unified Framework for Fixing Our Broken Tax Code

The Trump Administration, the House Committee on Ways and Means, and the Senate Committee on Finance have developed a unified framework to achieve pro-American, fiscally responsible tax reform. This framework will deliver a 21st century tax code that is built for growth, supports middle-class families, defends our workers, protects our jobs, and puts America first. It will deliver fiscally responsible tax reform by broadening the tax base, closing loopholes, and growing the economy.

“We have a once-in-a generation opportunity to give American workers and businesses the level playing field they deserve and make us competitive once again on the world stage,” said Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn. “The Administration and Congress have worked together to develop this unified framework for tax reform, which will grow our economy, create jobs, and provide relief for working families. This framework will deliver on the President’s promise to end the rigged system that has kept our workers and businesses down for too long.”

This unified framework serves as a template for the tax-writing committees that will develop legislation through a transparent and inclusive process. The committees will also develop additional reforms to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of tax laws and to achieve the framework’s goals. The Chairmen of the tax-writing committees welcome and encourage bipartisan support and participation in the process.

The full framework is available here, and a one-page overview is available here.

Governor Hosts Annual Small Business Summit, Announces Small Business Agenda

Yesterday, Governor Scott Walker and Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch hosted Wisconsin small business owners, executives, and entrepreneurs in roundtable discussions in Rothschild at the seventh annual Governor’s Small Business Summit. Governor Walker began hosting the event his first year in office to ensure business owners and government officials can directly engage each other and discuss opportunities for developing Wisconsin’s successful business climate. Governor Walker also announced his Small Business Agenda, a four-step approach to helping and strengthening Wisconsin small businesses.

Step One: Reduce business costs

  • Lower property taxes
  • Stop unemployment fraud
  • Streamline regulations
  • Reduce frivolous lawsuits

Step Two: Prepare the workforce

  • Invest in K-12 education
  • Increase worker training
  • Expand opportunities in our technical colleges
  • Strengthen ties between the UW System and the workforce

Step Three: Remove barriers to work

  • End public assistance benefits cliffs
  • Require able-bodied adults to work or receive employability training
  • Require able-bodied adults to pass a drug test before receiving public assistance
  • Target specific populations – veterans, people with disabilities and ex-offenders to enter the workforce

Step Four: Attract new talent

  • Market workforce opportunities within Wisconsin

Governor Walker Appoints Dan Meyer to Serve as DNR Secretary

Yesterday, Governor Scott Walker announced the appointment of former Wisconsin State Assembly Representative Dan Meyer to serve as secretary of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“Dan Meyer will be an outstanding DNR secretary,” Governor Walker said. “He understands the balance between protecting our natural resources and supporting economic prosperity in our state. As a highly respected former legislator and mayor who cares deeply about conservation, Dan will serve in the best interests of Wisconsin.”

Meyer, an avid outdoorsman, represented the 34th District in the Wisconsin State Assembly from 2001 to 2013 and was a strong advocate for the environment, specifically related to protecting Wisconsin’s lakes in the efforts against invasive species. Prior to his time in the Legislature, he served as mayor of Eagle River, Wisconsin, from 1997 – 2001 and is a former executive director of the Eagle River Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center. Meyer, a Vietnam era veteran, resides in Eagle River with his family.

“I am honored to serve as DNR secretary,” said Dan Meyer. “Our state is blessed with an abundance of natural resources, and we will work to responsibly protect them and ensure they remain a source of recreation, tourism, economic growth, and rich natural history now and for our children.”

200+ Companies Already Signed Up as Potential Foxconn Suppliers, Contractors

More than 200 companies have already signed up as potential Foxconn suppliers and contractors, according to a tweet posted by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) on Saturday, September 23rd.

Gov. Scott Walker signed a $3 billion incentive package last Monday for Foxconn Technology Group to build a flat-screen plant in southeastern Wisconsin. The governor said the deal will provide thousands of jobs for generations.

The governor told reporters after the signing that next steps call for the WEDC to finalize a contract with Foxconn to execute the provisions in the bill. WEDC’s board is scheduled to meet Thursday, September 28th to approve the agreement.

Foxconn executives will then likely reveal the precise location for the plant before the contract is signed in early October.

More Money for Schools and Lower Property Taxes

Yesterday, in front of an crowd of students and staff at Tullar Elementary School in Neenah, Governor Scott Walker today signed the 2017 – 19 state budget into law. The budget lifts K-12 education aid to the highest appropriated levels in state history and keeps Governor Walker’s promise to lower property taxes for the typical home so they will be lower in 2018 than in 2010.

“This budget proves you can provide more money for our schools and lower property taxes at the same time,” Governor Walker said. “Our successful economic and fiscal reforms led to a growing economy and better budget outlook. We call this the Reform Dividend, and we are investing this dividend in our priorities.”

Governor Walker’s priorities for this budget came as a result of listening sessions he held with citizens in all 72 counties. Our priorities fall into three categories: Student Success, Accountable Government, and Rewarding Work. This budget, which is projected to end with a roughly $200 million surplus, includes major new investments in each of these areas and provides continued tax relief.

“After listening to families and hardworking taxpayers across our state, we built this budget based on the people’s priorities,” Governor Walker continued. “I thank the Legislature for keeping the core of our budget in place which includes historic K-12 education funding, property tax relief, and more funding for broadband and worker training. I have never been more optimistic about the future of our state. We are working and winning for Wisconsin!”

In addition, Governor Walker today signed Executive Order #255 which creates an Office of Inspector General at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to reinforce the department’s efforts to find savings and eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse.

Governor Walker Releases Final Budget Vetoes

Governor Scott Walker has released a list of 99 final veto decisions for the 2017–19 state budget. The vetoes improve the general fund balance by $16.5 million in the current biennium and by an estimated $71 million in the 2019-21 biennium. The governor supports using some additional funds to enact broad-based tax reductions, including a sales tax holiday, and provide more aid for our rural schools through sparsity aid.

“This budget maintains the highest appropriated levels of K-12 school aid in state history, eliminates the state-levied property tax, and keeps property taxes for the typical homeowner lower than 2010 levels,” Governor Walker said. “This budget shows we listened to the priorities of all state residents. We invested in schools, worker training, and enacted broad-based tax relief. We are working and winning for Wisconsin.”

The majority of these vetoes are technical corrections, eliminate non-fiscal policy items, or remove items that should be considered through separate legislation.

Wisconsin Appeals Court Upholds “Right-to-Work” Law

The state Court of Appeals upheld Wisconsin’s “right-to-work” law Tuesday, dealing a second legal blow to unions two months after a similar federal lawsuit was thrown out.

Unions sued in state and federal court. Federal law requires unions to represent all workers in certain job classes, and the unions argued it was unconstitutional for the government to prevent them from collecting fees from all workers who they had to provide services for.

The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found the law was constitutional in July and threw out the federal lawsuit.

On Tuesday, the Wisconsin District 3 Court of Appeals unanimously issued a similar decision. The Wausau-based court found the law was constitutional, rejecting the unions’ argument that the government had deprived them of income from non-members. “The unions have no constitutional entitlement to the fees of non-member employees,” Judge Mark Seidl wrote for the court.


Congressional Republicans Make Last Push to Repeal Obamacare

Republican senators are making one last push to overhaul Obamacare days before an end-of-September deadline, but it is not clear whether they have the votes to pass a bill.

Senate leaders have asked the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to produce an expedited analysis of a health care bill from Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Bill Cassidy, R-La. The CBO announced Monday afternoon that it would provide a “preliminary assessment” of the bill by early next week. The CBO is tasked with reviewing whether legislation will add to the deficit; the Senate must have an analysis from CBO in hand in order to bring the legislation up for a vote.

The Graham-Cassidy bill would keep much of the Obamacare tax structure in place, but it would give the money back to the states in the form of block grants so they can design their own health care systems. The bill would end the Obamacare expansion of Medicaid eligibility in 2020 and replace it with per capita block grants to states to address the needs of low income residents.

President Trump has indicated support for the Graham-Cassidy bill, saying that “inaction is not an option.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., did tweet some positive words about Graham-Cassidy on Friday.