News & Updates | 1st Quarter 2020

By Therese Schneider

President’s message

We now find our world and our economy upended by the COVID-19 crisis. But long before this crisis started, we warned of the need for state and local governments to plan for unexpected fiscal shocks… continue reading

Redoubling our commitment during the COVID-19 crisis

As the fight against COVID-19 transforms our daily lives, the Forum is redoubling its commitment to be the leading source of public policy research in Wisconsin. In a time of crisis, we contend it’s more vital than ever for Wisconsinites to have a reliable, trusted source of research to inform public policy debates with ever-growing stakes.

We have re-imagined our upcoming research agenda with plans to unveil new, relevant research in coming weeks. We recently released reports on the fiscal strengths and challenges for our state government as it confronts a huge dip in revenue collections and on the sectors in the state’s economy that will see immediate impacts.

In the near future, we plan to release reports on how the economic crisis will affect local governments in Wisconsin. We welcome additional suggestions for research topics amid this fast-changing environment.

While our work continues, Forum staffers will work remotely for the immediate future. We continue to be reachable by phone and email, so don’t hesitate to reach out.

Mayoral Forum challenges candidates to address issues facing city

We hosted an online Milwaukee Mayoral Candidate Forum on March 30. Forum President Rob Henken challenged the candidates to address the critical issues facing the city. Didn’t get a chance to catch it live? Don’t worry–we’ve posted a recording on our website.

Briefing decision-makers on Forum research

The Forum prioritizes research that not only informs Wisconsinites but also makes a direct impact on pressing policy issues at the state and local level.

In March our president Rob Henken testified to the state Assembly Ways and Means Committee about AB 521, a bill that would permit Milwaukee County to hold a referendum on a 1% local sales tax increase that would go toward county and municipal spending priorities and property tax relief. While taking no position on the legislation, his remarks highlighted our extensive research into the revenue structures of local governments in Wisconsin and across the country. He noted our research shows Milwaukee is “clearly unique” among peer cities in the extent to which it relies on property tax revenue for nearly all its local tax revenue.

Also in March, Forum communications director/researcher Mark Sommerhauser testified to the Milwaukee City-County Reckless Driving Task Force on our research into the sharp recent increase in motor vehicle fatalities among African-American Wisconsinites. We noted our findings also showed an increase in speeding-involved fatalities in Milwaukee, which contradicts a downward trend elsewhere in the state. Our research also looked at potential contributors to these trends, including factors such as reports of a reckless driving epidemic in Milwaukee, declining transit ridership in the area, and changes in the economic cycle and in unemployment levels.

Forum elects new board members at Annual Meeting

More than 200 people attended our 2020 annual meeting on Tuesday, January 21. We highlighted our 2019 organizational accomplishments, previewed 2020 research topics, and highlighted key points in our newly unveiled strategic plan. We also formally swore in our officers, new directors, and directors renewing their board terms. Our program was a debate between the primary candidates for Milwaukee County Executive. Check out photos and media coverage of the event here.

Thanks for your input!

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 2020 research agenda and communications. We’ve summarized the results here.

New faces at the Forum

We’re excited to introduce our newest team member. Welcome to the Forum!

Agustin Benitez is our spring intern for the Forum’s Milwaukee office. He is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in finance at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Lubar School of Business. He is assisting with data analysis for several current research projects.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum is supported by hundreds of corporations, nonprofits, local governments, school districts, and individuals from across the state of Wisconsin. The following members provide particularly generous support that ensures Wisconsin will continue to benefit from housing one of the nation’s most successful nonpartisan, independent public policy research organizations.

Pillars of Public Policy

Sentinels of Civil Conduct