News & Updates | 2nd Quarter 2018

By Therese Schneider

President’s Message

Within the next few weeks, the Wisconsin Policy Forum will launch its new website. That should be welcome and exciting news to our supporters for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that you’ll no longer need to comb through the two separate websites of the former PPF and WISTAX to find a report or event announcement. The foremost reason for my excitement, however, is that this will be another major step forward in realizing the possibilities created by our newly merged organization… continue reading

Innovative projects and local government leaders honored at 26th annual Salute event

Over 400 people attended our 26th Annual Salute to Local Government on June 19, which featured WUWM’s Mitch Teich as our keynote speaker. The 2018 Salute marked the first time the awards were presented to local governments and school districts throughout Wisconsin to recognize our new status as a statewide organization. Our awards recognized governments for strong financial management, innovation, partnership and cooperation, as well as individuals in the public sector for excellence and lifetime achievement. Did you miss the event or want to watch the awardees’ video vignettes again? Watch the videos here. And, check out photos here. Many thanks to our very generous sponsors for helping to make this event a success!

Forum research intensifies focus on municipal finances

Our traditional research and analysis of municipal finances kicked up a notch in the second quarter, with several reports, presentations, and a well-attended policy discussion. The latter was our May Viewpoint luncheon on “City Governments in Wisconsin: At a Breaking Point?”, which featured four municipal leaders who offered their perspective on the unique financial challenges facing Wisconsin’s largest cities. Wisconsin Eye covered the event – you can watch it here!

We also produced a comprehensive report on the City of Racine’s finances; back-to-back editions of Taxpayer that focused on state property tax levy limits and their linkage to new construction; and separate issues of Focus that covered a rise in municipal debt and the proliferation of wheel taxes.

We’ve also been busy presenting our municipal finance research to business groups and elected leaders, including chambers of commerce in Sheboygan, Oshkosh, and Racine; the Racine Common Council; Waukesha County village and city administrators; and the Intergovernmental Cooperation Council of Milwaukee County.

Expungement research receives statewide media coverage and legislative action

In June, we released A Fresh Start, which considers expansion of expungement opportunities as one strategy to remove obstacles for Wisconsin jobseekers. The report already has received widespread attention in the news media and has generated discussion among state policymakers. We were interviewed on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Central Time and WUWM’s Lake Effect, for example, and our research was covered by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Eau Claire’s WEAU 13 News. In the state capitol, a bipartisan pair of legislators announced their intentions to introduce a reform proposal in the next legislative session. Stay tuned for our September event in Madison focused on this issue!

Coming soon… new research!

Affordable Housing: This report analyzes pre/post-recession trends in the supply of, and demand for, rental housing in Milwaukee County, and investigates the affordability of rental housing options for county residents.

Retiree Health Benefits: Most of Wisconsin’s largest cities have made progress in reducing these liabilities but billions of dollars in unfunded obligations remain. This edition of the Wisconsin Taxpayer will look at the challenges facing cities around the state and provide options for the future.

Charter Schools: Here we examine how charter schools in Milwaukee are funded, the impact of chartering schools for MPS, and potential policy impacts for state and local policymakers to consider.

Parks and Culture: The latest installment in our ongoing look at infrastructure needs in the city and county of Milwaukee focuses on county-owned parks and cultural institutions.

State of Wisconsin’s Cities and Villages: This collaboration with the League of Wisconsin Municipalities provides a comprehensive look at the finances, streets, and services of nearly 600 communities in the state.

New faces at the Forum

We’d excited to introduce our newest team members: research director, researcher, research analyst, and two summer interns. Welcome to the Forum!

Jason Stein is the Forum’s research director and focuses on state and local government out of our Madison office. Before joining the Forum, he worked as a Capitol reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and for the Wisconsin State Journal. Jason previously served as the board president of both the Wisconsin Capitol Correspondents Association and of The Daily Cardinal, the University of Wisconsin-Madison student newspaper. He has a master’s degree in journalism from UW-Madison and a bachelor’s in classical languages from the University of Kansas.

Stephanie Murray is a researcher and a familiar face at the Forum’s Madison office. She worked as a research analyst at the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance for three years before returning to graduate school where she recently received her master’s degree at the La Follette School of Public Affairs at UW-Madison.

Kevin Dospoy started as a research analyst in our Madison office in January 2018. His research focuses on transportation as well as the fiscal health of municipalities throughout Wisconsin. Before joining the Forum, Kevin interned with the Village of Waunakee, City of Middleton, and Senator Ron Johnson’s Office. He recently received his master’s degree at the La Follette School of Public Affairs at UW-Madison.

LaLinda Xiong is our graduate intern and has been working with the Forum since fall 2017. She has a BA in Economics and minors in actuarial science and math from UW-Milwaukee. She’ll embark on her graduate studies this fall at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.

Martin DeLuca is our summer undergraduate intern. He was previously an intern at the Wisconsin State Assembly and is currently pursuing a BA in Economics at Brandeis University.