Wisconsin is in trouble: A new report finds stagnant growth among working age residents

May 12, 2014

A new report from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliace forecasts a dire situation for the Badger state in the near future. The WTA finds Wisconsin’s stagnant growth of working-age residents to be what it calls an “impending storm.” 

Key takeaways from the WTA report show a projected decline in the working age population of .2% between 2010 and 2040. In that time, only 21 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties are expected to see an increase in 20-64 year olds, and only 6 of those counties will see an increase of more than 10%. 

To put these numbers in perspective, Wisconsin is only projected to see growth of 14.1% between 2010 – 2040, compared to 14.5% growth between 1992 – 2010. Our state is struggling so mightilyto attract more working age residents that it will take us 30 years to achieve levels of growth that once only took 18 years. 

Northern Wisconsin stands to feel the most pain with decreases in 20-64 year olds of more than 13 counties in the next 26 years. Residents in Eau Claire, La Crosse, and Superior only have to look across the river to our Midwestern neighbor to see why our situation is so troubling. 

The state of Minnesota has invested in education and worker training programs, helped increase wages for workers, instituted marriage equality, succeeded in increasing job growth, while making quality healthcare accessible and affordable for working age residents. 

In Scott Walker’s Wisconsin just the opposite has happened. Walker cut $800 million from public education and has yet to fully restore his cuts to worker training programs. Walker and the Republican party have vehemently opposed a modest raise for workers, as well as marriage equality. 

Walker also failed miserably at growing jobs; the state is currently 9th out of 10 Midwestern states, well behind neighboring Minnesota. The WTA report found that between 1980 and 2011, states with robust growth in working-age population also had the best job gains – the opposite also is true.

In contrast to Minnesota, Gov. Walker and his administration has made it more difficult to access affordable health insurance. On average, single coverage health insurance premiums in Wisconsin can be anywhere from 79% to 99% higher than in Minnesota. Costs are especially higher for those living in major Wisconsin cities such as, Milwaukee, La Crosse, and Eau Claire. Some regions of the state have seen premiums as high as 136% more than the entire average of Minnesota’s health care costs. Unnecessarily high healthcare bills aren’t attractive to businesses or working age people looking to move to a new state. 

“The future of our state truly does hinge on voting out Scott Walker in November. His first term is filled with the most self-serving and nearsighted policy decisions Wisconsin has ever seen,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate said on Tuesday. “Although we have some of the greatest natural resources in the country and a world-class university system, working age people won’t migrate to our state as long as Scott Walker is pursuing destructive policies that destroy opportunity. The only way to turn our state is around is through sound investments that increase opportunity for all Wisconsinites – not just those at the top.”