Wisconsin Policy Forum

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It’s become common in Wisconsin for school districts to go directly to voters to ask for increased property tax funding. These school referendums have seen high approval rates in recent years.

You might think that the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic devastation would reverse the trend, but that is not what has happened this year.

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The COVID-19 pandemic plunged the world’s economy into the biggest recession since the Great Depression. Many Americans continue to struggle as the flare-ups threaten the little progress we’ve been able to make since lockdowns began in April.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially difficult for Wisconsin’s artistic and cultural industries. These industries account for 3.1% of Wisconsin's gross domestic product. That's more than hospitals (2.9%) or accommodation and food services (2.4%), which includes the revenue made from restaurants, bars, and hotels. While some states have created emergency funds for these industries, Wisconsin hasn’t. In fact, Wisconsin ranks dead last for the amount of funding the state generally provides to arts and culture among U.S. states.

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The affordable housing crisis has been continuing to grow in the U.S. over the last decade. But the COVID-19 pandemic and record-high unemployment have exacerbated an already struggling system.

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Protests sparked by police killings of Black people are drawing attention to the United States' persistent racial disparities. Those disparities are also widespread in education. Wisconsin has some of the largest test score and high school graduation gaps between Black and white students.

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Over the last couple of decades, the gender pay gap has been narrowing nationwide. But it still remains a very real problem. A new report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum finds that women make around 85 cents for every dollar that a man makes in Milwaukee County. In Waukesha County, it’s just 76 cents to every dollar made by a man.

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If voters didn't approve a tax referendum for Milwaukee Public Schools in April, the district would have been in a dire situation. That’s according to researchers with the Wisconsin Policy Forum, which analyzes the MPS budget each year.

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The true economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic is still unclear. Unemployment has had its highest surge in U.S. history, dwarfing previous records. Small businesses are struggling to survive, and the stock market has been vacillating between extreme lows and highs.

In the Milwaukee area, people are concerned about what this is going to mean for themselves, their loved ones, and the community. Rob Henken, president of the Wisconsin Policy Forum, has been analyzing how this pandemic may impact local budgets.

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The COVID-19 crisis could significantly deplete state resources in Wisconsin. Gov. Tony Evers says the state could lose more than $2 billion over the next year because tax collections are expected to drop and demand for state services like Medicaid is expected to increase.

>>Latest WUWM & NPR Coronavirus Coverage

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As the nation hunkers down at home, we’re simultaneously staring down an impending recession brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s still unclear how the recession will unfold, but economists fear we could be looking at an unemployment rate higher than during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

It was just over a decade ago that the Great Recession led to skyrocketing unemployment, home foreclosures, and stagnated wages. But it seems that Wisconsin has learned some things in the time since the Great Recession.

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Not long ago, black Wisconsinites were less likely than their white and Latino counterparts to die in a car crash.

But a new report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum titled, "Wrong Way: Black Auto Deaths Up In Wisconsin", found that over the last decade, the number of black people dying from car accidents in Wisconsin each year has doubled. At the same time, the number of white Wisconsinites dying in accidents has substantially decreased.

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There have been lots of arguments made both for and against medical marijuana. But there are flaws in claims made on both sides. That's what researchers at the Wisconsin Policy Forum found with their latest report.

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It’s that time of year again when lawmakers are deliberating budget proposals from the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County. This year the county caught some fortuitous breaks whereas the city is struggling to cover soaring pension costs. But both are calling for raising the sales tax as a tenable way forward. 

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Since it was first envisioned, there has been controversy over The Hop streetcar in Milwaukee. One of the central concerns has been about its funding: Namely, who’s paying for this and could the money be spent on a more worthy cause?

The Wisconsin Policy Forum is not picking sides in this debate. Rather, their recent report on The Hop’s funding structure is meant to clarify where its funding comes from and how that compares to similar projects in other cities.

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Local governments are incredibly important to our communities. They are largely responsible for allocating money to schools, roads, and first responder services, like police and firefighters. But too many local governments can be problematic. It can mean overlapping responsibilities and potentially, a waste of taxpayer dollars.

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