Thursday, July 9, 2015

Two wonky graphs to check out

Been a busy evening for me, so I don't have much original material to get you. So instead, let me direct you to a couple of very interesting data sources that you can look into when it comes to budgets and what funding for our largest services looks like.

Here is a link to a neat interactive graphic by the Wisconsin Budget Project which shows the change in state aids to K-12 public school districts for this coming year. Feel free to click it and look up your district and see if you're in the 55% of public school districts that will lose aid, or the 45% that will gain.

The other article I want to point you to is an in-depth discussion byUrban Milwaukee's Bruce Thompson on Transportation Funding, and how the costs of building and fixing roads have increased well beyond inflation, and even more beyond increased revenues from the gas tax. And this loss of revenue as well as a change in driving habits has put Congress into a major crunch when it comes to funding roads, and they need to figure this out by the end of the month.
The chart to the right, from the Tax Policy Center, plots the history of the federal gasoline tax since 1980. Early in this period the tax was increased three times. However, since 1994 it has stayed flat at 18.4 cents per gallon. With inflation, it has declined to 11.5 cents in 1994 dollars. If the cost of building roads is considered, the decline is even greater. In effect the buying power of the federal gas tax has dropped by more than half. As a result, the federal highway fund is due to run short of its commitments in the near future, yet Congress has been reluctant to increase the tax.
And here is the chart Thompson references, which shows how the federal gas tax buys much less than it did when it was last raised 21 years ago.

It also features a link to this map, which illustrates the total costs of owning a car for every Census Block in America. Thompson's whole article is good, and gives excellent insight into why funding out roads in Wisconsin was such a major problem with this budget, and will continue to be as long as we have "leaders" who refuse to raise revenues for what they want to fix and built.

Feel free to play around with this stuff. I'll try to be back tomorrow with more budget and econ items to look into. My real life has a few things going on (in a good way), so it may be a bit sporadic in the next couple of days.


  1. Heard an interesting stat on Battle Ground WI. Construction costs per mile in WI are significantly more than MN. I believe it was the July 2nd podcast.

  2. Jake, and with the latest from Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnel ruling out any gas tax increase you have to wonder if anything other than the Zoo Interchange is going to be built in the state over the next five years. Didn't Walker turn down expanded Medicaid because of the "unreliability" of federal funding?--looks like they should have adopted the same view towards highway spending. With 82% of all federal highway funding coming from gas taxes, it is going to be very hard to fund any significant highway construction in this state.

    1. I was going to go into more detail on that Doc. It's remarkable how Walker/WisGOP try to say they can't expand Medicaid because of "uncertainty", but the budget relies on billions in Federal Highway funds that may be gone in 3 weeks, and is much likely not to stay at the same levels for the reasons you mention above.

    2. Maybe, (just maybe) someone knew what Ryan was going to say, and got the priority for the Interchange inserted in the budget while the other work (FRV's 441, Highway 23 expansion, Madison to the state line 3-lane, and the Verona interchange) was put on a "we'll see if there's money" basis. Illinois residents driving to the Dells could be facing those unbelievable back-ups for the next five years, that ought to be great for business.

      Also, at some point someone has to figure out the real status of tax collections. Now Koo-Koo is going around saying that the growth of income tax collections confirms that the tax cuts more than paid for themselves. I wish I had the skills, time, and data to do so, but alas.