New State Law Makes Financial Literacy a Graduation Requirement for Wisconsin High School Students

Wisconsin high school students will have to complete at least a half credit of personal financial literacy to graduate under a new law signed Wednesday by Governor Tony Evers. Wisconsin is now the 24th state to guarantee a standalone half-credit course in financial literacy, according to Next Gen Personal Finance.

Students will be required to take a course that includes lessons on different skills, including money management, saving and investing and credit and debt. The mandate will start with the 2028 graduating class.

The financial literacy bill had broad, bipartisan support in the Legislature, passing the Senate on a 29-4 vote and passing the Assembly 95-1. Its backers cite a wide range of reasons.

Rep. Alex Dallman, R-Green Lake, the lead author of the plan, said financial literacy is the most important skill to give the next generation of students.

“We need to make sure that people aren’t relying so much on either government welfare or benefits, and being able to keep themselves afloat and learn what it means to make money, save money, invest wisely, and also know how to get under their feet and into the economy at a much faster rate than they are right now,” Dallman said.

Rep. Jenna Jacobson, D-Oregon, said a mandate will allow for equitable access to financial literacy.

“Not just because your parents were good at handling money or you took a specific class and it was embedded in that, but every kid has that touchpoint where they’re learning financial information,” Jacobson said.


DWD Announces Maximum Worker’s Compensation Rates Effective January 1, 2024.

Wisconsin’s maximum Worker’s Compensation rate will increase to $1,296 per week for temporary total disability, permanent total disability and death benefits for injuries occurring on or after January 1, 2024.

The new average weekly wage used to compute the maximum rate is $1,944. Using this new wage raises the maximum death benefit for fatal injuries occurring on or after January 1, 2024, to $388,800. The maximum burial expense remains $10,000 and the death benefit to unestranged parents remains $6,500.

As of this date, the maximum weekly indemnity rate for permanent partial disability will remain $430 for injuries occurring on or after January 1, 2024. If this benefit rate is changed, a new Insurance Letter will be sent.

The 2024 maximum limit for private vocational rehabilitation services increased by 5.065% to $2,063. When the Department of Workforce Development’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) is unable to provide services to eligible injured workers, insurers are required to pay the reasonable and necessary vocational rehabilitation costs including the costs of services provided by the vocational rehabilitation specialists in the private sector. This change is based on the average annual percentage change in the U.S. Consumer price index for all urban consumers. The new limit applies regardless of the date of injury.

Governor Evers Signs Brewers Stadium Bill

Gov. Tony Evers signed a bipartisan bill Tuesday which includes over $500 million in public funds for upgrades to American Family Field, ensuring that the Milwaukee Brewers stay in the city until at least 2050.

The state will spend about $387 million under the plan, according tothe latest summary by the Legislature’s nonpartisan budget office. That contribution could go down to $366 million, depending on how much is generated by a new ticket surcharge.

The city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County will also pay a combined $135 million for the deal. That’s a reduction from earlier versions of the plan, which was adjusted after some local leaders worried the contribution from the communities would be too high for the cash-strapped city and county.

The team’s contribution to the deal will be about $110 million.

The ticket surcharge, which will cover non-Brewers events like concerts, will start at $2 in 2024 and step its way up to $4 by 2042 for most tickets. For luxury boxes, the surcharge will start at $8 and work its way up to $10 by 2042.

Part of the law also includes winterizing the stadium, so it can be used for events in colder months. Brewers president of business operations Rick Schlesinger said that work will begin after the end of the next season.

Michigan Regulators Approve $500 Million Pipeline Tunnel Project

Michigan officials approved a $500 million plan Friday to encase in a protective tunnel a portion of an aging oil pipeline that runs beneath a channel connecting two Great Lakes, leaving just one more regulatory hurdle for the contentious project.

The state’s three-person Public Service Commission approved the project in the Straits of Mackinac on a 2-0 vote. Commissioner Alessandra Carreon abstained, noting she just joined the commission four months ago.

The plan still needs approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is still compiling an environmental impact statement. A final decision may not come until 2026.

Enbridge Energy has been operating the Line 5 pipeline since 1953. The pipeline moves up to 23 million gallons (87 million liters) of crude oil and natural gas liquids daily between Superior, Wisconsin, and Sarnia, Ontario.

A 4-mile (6-kilometer) portion of the pipeline crosses the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac.


U.S. Commits to Shutting Down its Coal Plants

The Biden Administration is forging ahead with its green agenda by committing the United States to not building any new coal plants and phasing out existing plants.

U.S. Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry announced at the annual United Nations climate change summit, known as COP28 and which is being held in Dubai, although no date was given for when the existing plants would have to go.

“We will be working to accelerate unabated coal phase-out across the world, building stronger economies and more resilient communities,” Kerry said in a statement.

As of October, just under 20% of the U.S. electricity is powered by coal, according to the Department of Energy. The amount of coal burned in the United States last year was less than half what it was in 2008.

Last month President Biden said that coal plants “all across America” will be shut down, to be replaced with wind and solar.

A move to close down coal plants in the U.S. is already underway as federal clean energy tax credits and regulations make it harder for operators to compete economically.

A report by the nonpartisan Institute for Energy Economics and Finance Analysis found that 173 coal plants are set to close by 2030 and another 54 by 2040.

Wisconsin Proposal would Give Tax Breaks to Businesses that Help their Workers Afford Child Care

A proposal from Republican lawmakers would offer state tax breaks to Wisconsin businesses that help their employees afford child care. The refundable tax credits would apply to businesses that start their own day cares for workers, as well as to those who help employees pay for outside providers.

During a public hearing this week, Sen. Dan Feyen, R-Fond Du Lac, said the legislation is one way to increase participation in Wisconsin’s workforce. “Wisconsin is facing rising costs and reduced capacity in our day care industry,” said Feyen, a co-sponsor of the proposal. “This is putting incredible strain on working families (and) putting parents in a position of choosing between dual incomes or sending kids to a day care.”

The bill includes a credit of up $100,000 to help a business with the start-up costs of creating its own day care program for the children of employees. A business could use that credit for capital expenses, such as playground equipment or lease or mortgage payments. A business could also use that credit to pay an outside nonprofit to establish a day care program.

It would be on top of a proposed credit of up to $3,000 per child to cover the operating and administrative costs of an employee’s child care. Those payments could be made either to a business’ in-house day care or to an outside provider, but the employer would only be eligible for the additional per-child credit if the employer covers at least half of the employee’s child care costs.

That requirement for a matching contribution will ensure an employer has “sufficient skin in the game,” said Rep. David Armstrong, R-Rice Lake, who introduced the legislation. While Armstrong acknowledged the bill is “not a magic bullet,” he said he hopes it will encourage employers to be “more aggressive” in responding to their workers’ child care needs.

If the bill becomes law, Wisconsin would join 19 other states that offer similar types of child care tax credits to employers.

The Wisconsin proposal would be more expansive than a federal tax credit that already applies to employers that provide or help pay for child care, according to an analysis from Wisconsin’s Department of Revenue.

Price Hikes and Consumer Spending Cooled Last Month

The core Personal Consumption Expenditures price index, which excludes volatile gas and food prices and is the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge, rose 0.2% last month and 3.5% for the year ended in October, according to data released Thursday.  The core PCE price index is at its lowest annual rate since April 2021.

When including gas and food prices, the overall PCE index was unchanged last month. It’s the first time since April 2020 that prices did not rise on a monthly basis.

Annually, the headline index is up 3%, which is the lowest it’s been since March 2021.

The Commerce Department’s latest Personal Income and Outlays report also showed that consumers reined in some spending in October. Consumer expenditures increased 0.2% last month, a marked pullback from the 0.7% jump seen in September.

Spending on international travel, hospital and nursing home services, accommodations and gasoline helped to drive the month’s increase.

Personal income increased by a modest 0.2% last month, and the savings rate ticked up by 0.1 percentage points to 3.8%, according to the report.

‘Cashless’ Establishments would be Barred in Wisconsin under Bipartisan Bill

Wisconsin retail businesses would be required to accept cash under a bipartisan proposal in the state Legislature.

The bill would prohibit establishments from being “cashless” for any in-person retail transaction of less than $2,000. Retailers could be fined between $200 and $5,000 if they don’t accept cash as payment.

Mobile payments, self-checkout and gas at the pump would not be subject to the regulation, according to the bill’s co-author, Representative Michael Schraa, R-Oshkosh.

At a public hearing on the plan Tuesday, Schraa said people who don’t use credit cards or banks are disenfranchised at establishments — including Lambeau Field — that don’t take cash. He also argued that moving away from cash encourages people to incur credit card debt.

“I go back to what’s written on every single dollar bill: ‘This note (is) legal tender for all debts, public and private,'” he said. “It is Wisconsinites who should make the choice to use paper money or plastic cards and not businesses.”

According to the Pew Research Center, use of cash is on the decline. About 41 percent of Americans use no cash for purchases in a typical week, up from 24 percent in 2015. Some small businesses argue that declining to use cash is safer and lowers labor costs.

But opponents of entirely cashless businesses say that they disenfranchise people who don’t use banks, including young people, certain religious communities and low-income people.

According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, an estimated 4.5 percent of American households are “unbanked,” meaning that no one living there has a checking or savings account at a bank or credit union. Older people and low-income people are more likely to use cash, according to Gallup.

U.S. Supreme Court to Consider ‘Quadrillion-Dollar Question’ in Major Tax Case

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in early December on a case that has the potential to broadly reshape the U.S. tax code.

At issue in Moore v. United States is the question of whether the federal government can tax certain types of “unrealized” gains, which are property like stocks or bonds that people own but from which they haven’t directly recouped the value, so they don’t have direct access to the money that the property is worth.

The decision could have implications for everything from potential wealth taxes, like the one the Biden administration proposed for billionaires in 2022, to large swaths of the international tax regime.

The dispute arose from businesspeople Charles and Kathleen Moore’s investment in an Indian company that sells farm equipment.

Critics of a blanket constitutional requirement for realization say the idea is trumped up, and it’s really just about the timing of when an asset is allowed to be taxed for accounting purposes.

They point to a 1940 decision in Helvering v. Horst finding that “the rule that income is not taxable until realized has never been taken to mean that the taxpayer … can escape taxation because he has not himself received payment of it from his obligor.”


IRS Announces Delay in Form 1099-K Reporting Threshold for Third Party Platform Payments in 2023

Following feedback from taxpayers, tax professionals, and payment processors and to reduce taxpayer confusion, the Internal Revenue Service delayed the new $600 Form 1099-K reporting threshold requirement for third party payment organizations for tax year 2023 and is planning a threshold of $5,000 for 2024 to phase in the new law.

Third party payment organizations include many popular payment apps and online marketplaces.

The agency is making 2023 another transition year to implement the new requirements under the American Rescue Plan that changed the Form 1099-K reporting threshold for payments taxpayers get selling goods or providing a service over $600. The previous reporting thresholds will remain in place for 2023.

This means that for 2023 and prior years, payment apps and online marketplaces are only required to send out Forms 1099-K to taxpayers who receive over $20,000 and have over 200 transactions.

It’s important to note that the higher threshold does not affect the actual tax law to report income on your tax return. All income, no matter the amount, is taxable unless it’s excluded by law whether a Form 1099-K is sent or not.

The Form 1099-K could be sent to anyone who’s using payment apps or online marketplaces to accept payments for selling goods or providing services. This includes people with side hustles, small businesses, crafters and other sole proprietors.

However, it could also include casual sellers who sold personal stuff like clothing, furniture and other household items that they paid more than they sold it for. Selling items at a loss is not actually taxable income but would have generated many Forms 1099-K for many people with the $600 threshold.