Report card shows Wisconsin has room for economic and fiscal growth

Wisconsin state outline

The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance has released a fiscal and economic report card for Wisconsin that shows improvement, but also the need for more progress.Wisconsin state outline

The nonprofit, non-partisan organization is devoted to promoting good government through research and citizen education.

The annual WISTAX report tracks 23 economic and fiscal measures of the state’s health, which are divided into seven major categories.

Among those categories, workforce readiness received the top grade. Wisconsin’s high school graduation rate increased to 88 percent in 2012-’13, up from 87 percent in 2010-’11. That figure is well above the national high school graduation rate of 81.4 percent.

Students also performed well on college entrance exams, with combined ACT and SAT scores (converted to ACT equivalents) measuring 22.4 out of 36 in 2014. The U.S. average for that figure is 21.

Wisconsin’s job and firm creation improved, but trailed national levels. Employment was up 1.3 percent in 2014, below the national average of 1.9 percent. The state formed 1.2 percent more firms in 2014, which was lower than every surrounding state except Michigan.

Exporting also was below the national rate. Wisconsin exported 8 percent of its gross state products last year, below the 9.1 percent rate nationally. Venture capital investments totaled $28.26 per Wisconsin worker in 2014, far below the national per-worker investment of $361.74.

Statewide, workers’ annual earnings averaged $51,214 last year, 10.1 percent less than the national average and also lower than every surrounding state except Iowa.

However, the state shows fiscal improvement. The combined state-local tax burden fell for the third straight year, from 11.3 percent of personal income in 2013 to 11.1 percent in 2014. In 2014, Wisconsin had its smallest general fund deficit since 2000, at $1.4 billion.

But the state’s infrastructure is in need of repair, the report card showed. In 2013, just 48.3 percent of Wisconsin’s highway miles were in the top two smoothness categories, lower than every surrounding state and well below the national average of 58.1 percent.

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Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.

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