Focus #1


Could State Close the GAP?

Last year, the state of Wisconsin’s “hidden deficit” fell by more than one-third – the largest decrease in decades in percentage terms. The state’s main fund ended 2019 in the best shape on record, a more than $2 billion improvement over 2011. Yet on this measure, Wisconsin continues to trail nearly every other state. ...Read More
Focus #24


Forum Unveils 2019 Top Five Research Findings

Continuing a year-end tradition launched by the former Public Policy Forum more than a decade ago, the Wisconsin Policy Forum is pleased to announce its top five research findings for 2019. ...Read More
Focus #23


School Property Taxes Rebound

School property taxes across Wisconsin are rising by more than $220 million on December 2019 tax bills, which suggests—when combined with increases in county and technical college district levies—that Wisconsin residents could see their largest property tax increase in a decade. The higher school levies come as state limits on school revenues are being raised for the first time since 2014-15. ...Read More
Focus #22


Police Spending Rises, Staffing Levels Fall

Police staffing levels were hotly debated during recent budget deliberations in Milwaukee and Madison. We analyzed a decade of data for Wisconsin’s 10 largest cities to determine if these communities were facing similar pressures and found police spending and violent crime rates have risen, but compared to a decade ago there are fewer police officers per capita in seven of the 10 cities. ...Read More
Focus #21


Wisconsin’s Shifting Job Market

A decade after the Great Recession slammed the brakes on the U.S. economy, employment in Wisconsin has recovered and surged almost 72,000 jobs higher than its pre-recession peak. A look at the types of jobs created finds higher-paying occupations requiring more education have grown more than lower-paying ones, but the benefits of that positive change haven’t been equally shared throughout the state. ...Read More
Focus #20


Every Student Succeeds Act: A New Window on School Spending

Enacted in 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is the latest authorization of a 50-year-old federal education law that promotes equal opportunity for all students across the United States. Among its new provisions, ESSA requires states and school districts to report actual per-pupil expenditures by school and funding source. This carries both opportunities and risks for the state, districts, and schools. What will this new information be able to tell us, and what are its limitations? ...Read More
Focus #19


Wisconsin’s Tax Ranking Dips to 19th

Over the past two decades, the taxes paid by Wisconsinites as a share of personal income have fallen by more than two percentage points—one of the largest decreases in the nation. Compared to other states, Wisconsin’s greater reliance on a few state and local taxes means those taxes here rank relatively high even though government spending in the state is roughly average. ...Read More
Focus #18


With Tax Growth Strong, State Reserves Highest in Decades

Bolstered by the largest percentage growth in annual tax revenues since 2000, Wisconsin’s total budget reserves have hit their highest level in four decades. However, the good news comes with caveats: Wisconsin’s reserves are still modestly below other states overall; are projected to fall over the next two years; and were boosted by unusually high corporate tax revenues that may not be sustained. ...Read More
Focus #17


Wisconsin’s Workforce Challenges Intensify

Census data suggest the number of working-age individuals living in Wisconsin has declined for several straight years, as has the state’s youth population. Meanwhile, the aging baby-boom generation is greatly expanding the population of retirees. These shifts signal challenges ahead for the state’s workforce and economy. ...Read More