Wisconsin Policy Forum

MuniTool Makes Data Accessible For Wisconsin Residents

Jul 26, 2019
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Accessing government data can be extremely difficult. It's not only challenging to find the right reports, but parsing through data and trying to make sense of it can be an incredibly daunting task. 

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From roads and bridges to aging buildings and buses, the Milwaukee area is facing a lot of infrastructure needs. When taken in its totality, the dollar amount required for those needs is enormous and far beyond the area’s financial capabilities.

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Municipalities in Wisconsin are very limited in the kinds of taxes they can levy. Every kind of tax is highly regulated by the state. That includes the room tax, which is placed on hotel rooms and other overnight stays in Wisconsin. The tax has become increasingly popular in communities throughout the state. 

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Wisconsin's population is aging and the demands on the area's senior centers are increasing, as well. That is presenting a challenge for many areas of the state, particularly Milwaukee County, because just as the population is aging, so are the senior center facilities. 

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Gov. Tony Evers' two-year state budget proposal was released late in February. As expected, the proposal includes many of the things the governor campaigned on: increased funding for education, tax cuts for middle and low-income earners, as well as more funds for road repairs. There have been many objections from the Republican-led Legislature, and it remains unclear how much of Evers' budget will be passed.

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Over the past 10 years, milk prices have been declining. Amid production increases and waning demand, Wisconsin’s dairy farmers are finding themselves in an increasingly difficult predicament.

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Gov. Tony Evers will make his first budget address on Thursday. As he outlines his spending priorities for the coming two years, officials from municipalities around Wisconsin will be listening with a keen ear as they set out to create their own spending plans. But many of these budgets will rely on property tax revenue to fund their services, rather than state aid.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum examined just how dependent they are on property taxes, versus other sources of revenue, and how Wisconsin compares with other places.

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Gov. Tony Evers wants to increase state special education funding by $600 million. The dramatic proposal follows a decade of flat state funding, despite rising costs to serve students with disabilities.

Right now, the main state support for special education only covers about a quarter of school districts’ costs. It’s up to local districts to make up the difference.

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Earlier in January, the city of Wauwatosa was featured in a New York Times article. But instead of the flyover country narratives we're used to hearing in Wisconsin, the piece focused on a new tax avoidance tactic that has some municipalities worried.

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Voters in Wisconsin made their wishes known about priorities for the state in the coming years. They elected a new governor in Democrat Tony Evers, while the legislature remains in the hands of the Republican Party. But actually accomplishing the will of the electorate may be challenging when it comes to supporting publicly funded programs. 

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Over the past three decades, Wisconsin’s state prison population has increased by more than 200 percent, and it’s expected to keep growing. According to a brief by the Wisconsin Policy Forum, that growing number will also lead to a growing budget.

The Department of Corrections is asking for an additional $149.4 million in its 2019-2021 budget. David Callender from the Policy Forum says, the increase will directly impact Wisconsin taxpayers.

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Policymakers in the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County are debating the merits of proposed budgets for the coming fiscal year and weighing legislative priorities with fiscal responsibility.

Every year, the Wisconsin Policy Forum scrutinizes these budget proposals and offers some analysis. This year is no exception. What is an exception is the relatively non-controversial nature of the proposals.

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The Milwaukee Public Museum is currently seeking a new location. Advocates of the project say both the museum’s public space and its offices and archives are largely outdated and inadequate for a modern museum and research facility.

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Americans are facing an affordable housing crisis. In some cities, the main issues are availability and soaring housing prices. But in Milwaukee, the biggest issue seems to be income. While housing prices have steadily increased, wages have remained stagnant.