News & Updates | 1st Quarter 2019

By Jeffrey Schmidt

President’s message

The Wisconsin Policy Forum’s recent release of our first-ever State of Wisconsin Budget Brief marks another milestone in the successful merger between the Public Policy Forum and Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance. Both legacy organizations had proud histories of publishing impartial fiscal analysis that educated the public and promoted fiscal responsibility. Hopefully, our members and supporters will agree that our state budget brief upholds those legacies….continue reading

New directors elected at Forum’s Annual Meeting

Nearly 200 people attended our 2019 annual meeting on January 24. Our program featured a conversation with Wisconsin Department of Administration Secretary Joel Brennan, who discussed the upcoming state budget and the policy challenges and priorities of the new administration. We formally swore in our officers, new directors, and directors renewing their board terms. You can find our full board list and officers here.

Viewpoint Luncheon explores the new state budget’s impacts on Greater Milwaukee

Our Viewpoint Luncheon on March 28 drew more than 130 people hear our take on the Governor’s proposed budget, and listen to a panel of local leaders who discussed the wide range of possible impacts for the state’s largest metro region. Check out our event recap that includes WisconsinEye’s video of the entire event as well as photos and media coverage. Many thanks to our sponsors–Clark Dietz and PFM Financial Advisors–for helping to make this event a success!

Bipartisan proposal to modify Wisconsin’s expungement law advances in state legislature

Our June 2018 report, A Fresh Start, identified possible changes state policymakers could consider to expand opportunities for individuals to expunge criminal records in certain cases. Matching bills in the Wisconsin State Senate and Assembly (SB 39 and AB 33) would make several of those changes, including:

  • Removing the state’s current requirement limiting expungement eligibility to individuals under the age of 25;
  • Allowing individuals to petition for expungement after completing their sentences rather than only at sentencing hearings; and
  • Making these changes retroactive, thus allowing individuals to seek expungement of past convictions where approval was not made at sentencing.

The Assembly held a public hearing on the proposal on March 7 and the Senate did so on March 19. A majority of legislators on both sides of the legislature are co-sponsors of the bills, including a roughly equal number of Republicans and Democrats.

Member survey results

Earlier this year, we asked members to complete our annual research survey to help us understand what we’ve been doing well and where we can make improvements. We also used the survey to get a sense of how our members are availing themselves of our products and opportunities for involvement. The feedback we received informs our 2019 research agenda and communications as well as our upcoming strategic planning process. We’ve highlighted some of the results here.

Coming soon… new research!

Milwaukee County Senior Centers: Milwaukee County owns five senior centers – all located in county parks – that serve meals to older adults and offer opportunities for exercise, recreation, education, and social activity. Each center has been in operation for more than 35 years and each faces significant facility needs. Our research explores the future role of senior centers in light of changing older adult needs, as well as the vast infrastructure challenges facing the county.

Room Taxes in Wisconsin: Municipal taxes on short-term lodging provided by hotels and motels have been around since 1967, but their use has increased in recent years even as state policymakers have adopted various restrictions. Our report will examine the impacts of recent legislative changes, statewide trends in the number of communities collecting room taxes, and how communities report and spend room tax collections.

Hispanic Workforce: The Hispanic population in metro Milwaukee has more than tripled since 1990, with Hispanic students now comprising more than one-quarter of students in Milwaukee Public Schools. Our research seeks to determine whether Hispanic high school graduates are pursuing higher education locally, what majors they are choosing, and whether their career paths and college majors align with projected workforce needs.

Fire and EMS Service Sharing: We’ll be releasing two reports that explore opportunities for greater service sharing or consolidation of municipal fire departments – one that entails a look at fire and rescue services in Bristol, Somers, and Paris in Kenosha County; and a similar analysis that involves the three fire departments that serve Greater Racine. Both reports will lay out a range of options and provide fiscal and programmatic analysis that is intended to guide action by policymakers.

We’ll also continue our timely analysis of the state budget with a series of briefs and reports on significant fiscal and policy issues.

Upcoming Forum events

Viewpoint Luncheon
The State Budget’s Focus on Education: Meeting the Need or Over the Top?

Tuesday, May 21, 2019 | 11:45 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Concourse Hotel | Madison, WI

Save the date! Details and registration will be announced soon.

Salute to Local Government

Tuesday, June 25, 2019 | 11:45 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Italian Conference Center | Milwaukee, WI

We are now accepting award nominations. Deadline is May 3, 2019. Event registration will open soon.