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WI Budget Project: Lawmakers Shortchanging the State

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PHOTO: A new report from the Wisconsin Budget Project says state legislators are shortchanging the public and hampering the state's growth by giving tax cuts to the wealthy and stripping investments to education and health care. Photo courtesy Wis. Budget Project.
PHOTO: A new report from the Wisconsin Budget Project says state legislators are shortchanging the public and hampering the state's growth by giving tax cuts to the wealthy and stripping investments to education and health care. Photo courtesy Wis. Budget Project.
August 11, 2014

MADISON, Wis. – The future of economic progress in Wisconsin is being questioned in a new report from the Wisconsin Budget Project, which shows state lawmakers may be hindering the tradition of investing in education and other assets that contribute to business growth and development.

Research analyst and report co-author Tamarine Cornelius said decisions made by state legislators over the past three years have derailed the Wisconsin's history of investing in education and health care.

Cornelius said the people of Wisconsin have long viewed these investments as building blocks to prosperity.

"We have a great university system, a very solid structure of public schools and over time we’ve built up the resources we need to make those excellent education systems, and it's paid off,” she said. “But today's lawmakers have rolled back some of those investments and unfortunately, we're seeing some of the results."

Some lawmakers said the changes are necessary to help Wisconsin grow economically. Cornelius doesn’t believe that’s the case, noting Wisconsin lags behind other Midwest states in terms of growth.

According to statistics in the Wisconsin Budget Project report, the Legislature has voted for 43 tax cuts since 2011, draining nearly $2 billion from education, health care, and other priorities. Cornelius said only the wealthy really benefited from the cuts.

"If you're in the top one-percent, your average tax break for these big tax cut packages was about $2,500,” she said. “If you are in the bottom 20 percent, your average tax cut was $48."

Cornelius suggests the state's leaders take a step back and consider where Wisconsin is headed.

"We've made these tax cuts, we've made these cuts to investments and things that have helped Wisconsin thrive over the years - what have we gotten for that?” she asked. “What we haven't gotten is job growth that exceeds what other states are having. It might be time to ask, 'Is this a path we want to continue down if it hasn't yielded yet the results that we are looking for?'"

The report indicates only six states have made bigger cuts in state support for education in recent years, and all states bordering Wisconsin have had faster private-sector job growth since 2010.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI