Wisconsin’s Path to Shared Prosperity


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Everyone in Wisconsin deserves the opportunity to fully benefit from the state’s economic growth. Our economy, our communities, our schools, and our families will fare better when every person in the state has full access to opportunity.

But Wisconsin’s economic growth has been lagging behind most other states in recent years, and the gains from that growth are not being widely shared. A growing concentration of income is being held in the hands of the top 1%, too many Wisconsin residents are finding it difficult to get ahead, and we have significant racial and ethnic disparities.

For our state’s economy to work for everyone, Wisconsin needs to invest in healthy communities, working families, and public infrastructure across the entire state. We also need a tax system that provides a level playing field for Wisconsin families and businesses, rather than a structure that advantages the well-connected who rig the system for their own benefit.

Here are four key strategies for enabling Wisconsin to move forward on the path to shared prosperity.

#1: Invest in healthy and well-educated workers and communities

Wisconsin’s economic success has long been rooted in having a healthy, well-prepared workforce. For much of our state’s history, Wisconsin has been a national leader in providing access to health insurance and also a leader in investing in a high quality public education system. However, Wisconsin has been slipping in recent years in its commitment to those critical foundations of our state’s prosperity.   

Working families need great schools. In order for Wisconsin to have a well-educated workforce with skills that match current and future needs, we need high quality early learning, excellent public schools and an affordable, accessible University of Wisconsin and technical college system.

Wisconsinites need quality, affordable health insurance coverage to be healthy and productive, and to have the economic security that they won’t go bankrupt because of a medical emergency. Too often in Wisconsin, a person’s health depends on their zip code, race and ethnicity, or income level. We need to make sure that everyone can see a doctor when they need one, regardless of where they live, the color of their skin, or how much they have in their bank account.

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#2: Make work pay and lift up working families

Wisconsin workers should be able to support their families, put food on the table, and make ends meet. But we have let protections for workers and potential workers erode, instead favoring corporate handouts over common-sense reforms that support workers and boost the economy.

With the state facing a shortage of workers, Wisconsin policymakers need to remove impediments to work and ensure that employment supports working families. Barriers to employment—such as not having access to quality child care, reliable transportation, and affordable health care—are suppressing Wisconsin’s growth and exacerbating the severe economic and racial disparities in our state.

Wisconsin should be a great place to raise a family, for people of all races. But research shows that Wisconsin is one of the worst places in the country to raise a black child, and other families of color are shut out of opportunity as well. Too often state leaders have failed to engage with Wisconsin’s communities of color and to advance policies that promote racial justice.

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#3: Strengthen Wisconsin’s infrastructure and communities

Our economy is only as strong as the communities within it. We need to aggressively pursue strategies to make sure that all our communities can thrive and attract new residents and businesses—from the rural towns in the northwest to central Milwaukee and everywhere in between. That means making sure that rural communities aren’t left behind as we shift to high-speed internet, and that residents have access to safe, affordable housing no matter where they live.

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4: Close tax loopholes that favor big corporations and the well-connected

Public resources should be invested in a way that broadly benefits everyone in Wisconsin. But in recent years, state lawmakers have passed a collection of tax breaks that funnel money into the pockets of a few wealthy, well-connected individuals and big corporations who rig the system for their own benefit.

The result is that a politically powerful group of well-off individuals and companies are getting away with not paying their fair share, depriving Wisconsin of the revenue needed to make investments in families, schools, and the workforce. Cleaning up our tax code would restore millions to invest in crucial priorities our communities need.

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