Tag Archives: tax credits

State’s tax cut benefits top 0.2 percent of earners

A new tax cut that allows some businesses to pay next to nothing in income taxes winds up mostly in the pockets of the extremely wealthy, according to a new report from the Wisconsin Budget Project.

The Manufacturing and Agriculture Credit (MAC), which was passed by lawmakers in 2011, nearly wipes out income taxes for manufacturers and agricultural producers. It reduces state tax revenue by $284 million between July 2016 and June 2017. The tax credit has cost much more than originally estimated, ballooning to twice the cost that lawmakers originally anticipated when they approved the tax cut.

Most of the cost of the tax cut goes towards reducing income taxes for millionaires, according to an analysis of Department of Revenue figures included in the report. Tax filers with incomes of $1 million and higher — the top 0.2 percent of filers by income — receive an estimated 78 percent of the 2016 tax cut that is distributed through the individual income tax. Millionaires receive an average tax cut of nearly $28,000 from this credit.

Tax cut hurts economy

Manufacturers can receive the credit even if they are laying off workers, closing some of their factories in the state, or sending some of their Wisconsin jobs overseas. The Budget Project’s analysis of employment figures shows there has not been an increase in the rate of growth of manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin since the credit has been in place.

“This is one of the most misguided tax breaks Wisconsin has ever seen,” said Tamarine Cornelius, research analyst for the Wisconsin Budget Project. “Not only does the credit only benefit a wealthy few, but it does very little to stimulate job growth — and all at a very steep price.”

Cornelius noted that at a time when MAC is giving very significant tax breaks to the wealthiest individuals, lawmakers are cutting back on investments in Wisconsin’s education system and communities. In fact, Wisconsin’s cut in state support for public schools and higher education are among the largest in the country.

“If the goal of the tax credit is to create jobs and help businesses thrive, the Manufacturing and Agriculture Credit is completely failing to do so,” said Cornelius. “In fact, the credit is costing the state millions of dollars and prohibiting the state from investing in areas that could improve the state’s workforce and infrastructure, such as providing aid to students attending technical schools, improving Wisconsin’s deteriorating roads, or adding teachers to Wisconsin’s K-12 classrooms.”

The Wisconsin Budget Project, an initiative of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, is an independent Madison-based research group that focuses on tax and budget policy. Read the full report on the Wisconsin Budget Project’s website: The Big Giveaway: Costly Tax Credit has Done Little to Boost Employment.


House Republicans unveil plan to replace health law

Six years after promising a plan to “repeal and replace” the federal health law, House Republicans are finally ready to deliver.

The 37-page white paper, called “A Better Way,” includes virtually every idea on health care proposed by Republicans going back at least two decades.

It would bring back “high risk pools” for people with very high medical expenses, end open-ended funding for the Medicaid program and encourage small businesses to band together to get better bargaining power in “Association Health Plans.”

What the plan does not include, however, is any idea of how much it would cost, or how it would be financed.

“It’s a framework,” a senior House Republican leadership aide said on a conference call with reporters on June 21, with the specifics to be determined next year by congressional committees, assuming the GOP maintains its majority. He likened the document to the white paper issued just after President Barack Obama’s election by then-Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Democrat. That document foreshadowed many of the key elements of the Affordable Care Act.

The plan starts with repeal of the health law and its requirements and taxes, but it would then put back many of its most popular elements: Allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ health plan to age 26; banning insurers from charging people with pre-existing health problems higher premiums; and forbidding insurers from dropping coverage if a policyholder gets sick.

It would repeal the current scheme of exchanges where consumers buy insurance and government tax credits to help moderate-income Americans pay their premiums if they don’t have an employer to help. Instead, everyone buying policies in the individual market would receive tax credits. Older people charged more by insurers would receive larger credits, though the House Republicans don’t specify how much.

But the GOP plan also would likely make insurance more expensive for older people by proposing a broader range for premiums based on age. Current premiums can vary only three-fold based on age, which is “driving out younger and healthier patients” who can’t afford them, the GOP aide said.

Under the plan, insurance companies could not charge higher rates to people with pre-existing conditions so long as they maintain continuous coverage, whether from an employer or in a policy they purchase themselves. The new high-risk pools would be available for those who have a break in coverage, or who fail to purchase during a one-time open enrollment under the plan.

The plan would get rid of most of the coverage requirements under the Medicaid program for the poor, so states could make them more or less generous than they are currently. It would also limit funding. States could opt for either a per-person cap or a block grant to spend much as they wish.

On Medicare, the proposal would encourage the existing movement of patients from the program’s traditional fee-for-service program to managed care plans, and would transition from the existing financing structure based on benefits to a controversial structure called “premium support” that puts cost-controlling responsibilities more on private insurance companies. That change has been pushed by House Speaker Paul Ryan for nearly a decade.

Backers of the existing health law were quick to criticize the GOP outline.

“Make no mistake, Ryan’s approach is not a better way forward, but a bitter path backward that returns us to the bad old days when vast swaths of Americans were left to the tender mercies of the insurance industry and could not afford needed care,” said Families USA Executive Director Ron Pollack, who pushed hard for passage of the Affordable Care Act.

“While House Republicans continue their efforts to repeal and undermine the Affordable Care Act, Democrats will work to defend the ACA so that every American has access to affordable and quality health care,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

Published from Kaiser Health News, a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, under a creative commons license. 

Walker’s agency may have given millions in unearned credits

Millions of dollars disappeared from Gov. Scott Walker’s embattled job creation agency and millions more were awarded to companies, many of them Walker supporters, that never followed through on creating new jobs. In fact, many of them shipped jobs out of Wisconsin.

Now a new review shows the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, which Walker no longer helms, erroneously awarded more than $412,000 in tax credits to companies over how many jobs they created. But that’s just how much that’s been identified thus far. The final total could be in the millions, the review showed.

The WEDC revealed the tax credit issue at a board meeting earlier this spring, when it reported it was checking on discrepancies in credits awarded and actual jobs created.

But the new report was the first time the size of the problem was detailed.

The investigation was prompted by an investigative report last fall that revealed the WEDC exceeded its authority and improperly awarded more than $21 million in taxpayer funding, much of it to Walker’s campaign contributors

The Wisconsin State Journal reported in late May that the agency is reviewing 222 tax credits awarded since 2006 over the way jobs were counted. Based on 18 awards checked thus far, there was more than $448,000 in over-awarded credits. About $36,000 was under-awarded.

With so many more credits to check, the overage may go significantly higher. WEDC chief executive Mark Hogan declined to give an estimate to a board committee. Hogan said the agency might try to recoup any excess credits by reducing the amount of tax credits that have yet to be verified.

The committee discussed the issue in open session before moving into closed session for further talks about the tax credit problem.

WEDC has been plagued by years of scandal. Last year, it handed out $90 million in awards — much more than the previous year — but created even fewer jobs, according to its own annual report.

At the time, Democratic lawmakers on the WEDC board repeated a call for replacing the agency with a new public entity.

“I am deeply concerned that taxpayers are not getting the needed bang for their buck at WEDC,” Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca said in a statement at the time.

During his first campaign, Walker promised to create 250,000 jobs during his first term in office — a number he still hasn’t come close to attaining after nearly six years. WEDC was purportedly created to fulfill that promise.

AP contributed to this report.

WEDC approved tax credits for Walker donor who cut jobs

The Department of Revenue has revoked $50,000 worth of tax credits from W.W. Grainger, a distributor of industrial and maintenance supplies, after the company failed to create promised jobs, sold subsidiaries employing hundreds of its workers and sent some jobs overseas.

The money was part of $500,000 in tax credits approved for W.W. Grainger in 2011 by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., Gov. Scott Walker’s signature job creation agency.

Walker chaired WEDC until 2015. A former top official at Grainger, David W. Grainger, has been a major donor to Walker’s gubernatorial campaigns.

Illinois-based W.W. Grainger had promised to make at least $1.8 million in capital improvements to its Janesville location and create 130 new jobs at that facility by March 2013. The contract also required the company to retain both the new jobs in Janesville and the 1,169 existing full-time jobs across Wisconsin until March 2015.

Because W.W. Grainger spent well over the planned amount on capital improvements, it received $50,000 in tax credits. But WEDC later changed its mind.

“While Grainger has far exceeded their capital investment expectations, they did not create any of the expected 130 jobs, and have had a significant reduction in their workforce,” WEDC program manager Shelly Braun stated on an award closeout assessment signed Oct. 14. “I recommend the revocation of the $50,000 in tax credits verified for capital investment.”

WEDC notified W.W. Grainger’s tax manager of its intent to revoke the credits and, a month later, turned the matter over to the Department of Revenue.

W.W. Grainger spokesman Joe Micucci said the company is paying the $50,000 back. WKOW-TV in Madison disclosed in a report Thursday that the company’s tax credits had been revoked.

Micucci said employment temporarily declined due to the sale of subsidiaries in 2013 but has since rebounded. According to Micucci, the company now has about 1,250 Wisconsin employees, but he declined to say whether that includes part-time employees. When the company applied for the credits in 2011, it reported having 1,169 full-time and 93 part-time employees.

Thomas Cafcas, a research analyst for Good Jobs First, said taxes represent just 2 percent of a company’s costs. More important factors include a ready workforce, good education and transportation systems, and the availability of suppliers and customers, said Cafcas, whose organization promotes accountability in economic development.

“If you look at WEDC, there is so much emphasis over the past few years on how tax breaks create all sorts of jobs,” Cafcas said. “Frankly, (Grainger) is the case in point — along with a whole host of other deals that have gone awry — that this is simply not the case.”

He added that when it comes to business decisions, “subsidies have little to do with it. A company will take taxpayer money if available, but it’s not really driving them to be where they are.”

David W. Grainger, the company’s former senior chairman, is a top Walker donor. He stepped down as chairman in 2007, and he was the largest individual shareholder as recently as 2013. Micucci said Grainger no longer holds that distinction and is not involved in day-to-day operations of the company.

Grainger has given $21,000 to Walker since 2011, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign database. In the 2014 election cycle, Grainger was one of 11 contributors who exceeded the limit of $10,000 in donations for the governor’s re-election. Walker’s campaign was ordered to pay a penalty for accepting excessive contributions.

The foundation managed and funded by Grainger also has been a generous donor to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The business school building was named Grainger after he and the Grainger Foundation together gave $10 million for its construction. And last year, the foundation made a $47 million gift to the UW-Madison engineering program from which David W. Grainger graduated.

Job tax credits given by Walker under scrutiny

WEDC has faced criticism for years and, in some cases, acknowledged its lack of proper oversight in awarding and monitoring financial awards. Critics also have called on the agency to stop subsidizing companies that send jobs outside of Wisconsin. Recently, WEDC chief executive Mark Hogan announced the agency is reviewing its job-related tax credit program after officials identified inaccuracies in how the agency counted qualifying jobs.

W.W. Grainger first applied for the tax credits in 2010, before WEDC was formed, with the Department of Commerce under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle.

Walker, a Republican, formed WEDC after becoming governor in January 2011. The public-private agency then chaired by Walker authorized up to $500,000 in credits in July 2011, including $450,000 for job creation and $50,000 for capital investments.

Grainger’s application detailed plans to convert unused warehouse space in its Janesville property into office space and add 130 full-time jobs, the majority of which would pay around $14 an hour plus benefits. The remaining positions would be managerial positions with hourly wages ranging from $26 to $51.

The application noted two alternative locations to move the jobs, both outside of Wisconsin: Grainger’s corporate offices in Niles, Illinois, or the company’s headquarters in Lake Forest, Illinois.

The final progress report, obtained by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism under the state public records law, shows the company completed the capital investments, spending $6.6 million on its Janesville facility — well over the $1.8 million promised. Improvements included new office space, additional parking, a second cafeteria and other updates.

But W.W. Grainger failed to create 130 new jobs and in fact eliminated two to three times that many positions between receiving the credits and filing the final progress report in 2015.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin, a nonprofit that focuses on social and economic justice, criticized the deal Friday.

“Wisconsin voters are on to the fact that political and corporate establishment are committing economic treason against Wisconsin workers,” said Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action. “The public is also increasingly realizing that if the economy can be rigged against workers, it can also be re-rigged in our favor through policies that expand economic opportunity.”

Job numbers decline, rebound

Micucci said the company’s 2013 sale of Gempler’s, Ben Meadows and AW Direct to Ariens Co. — an equipment manufacturing company based in Brillion — caused its headcount to decline.

Last year, W.W. Grainger cut 30 jobs from the Janesville warehouse as part of a strategy to outsource 130 jobs companywide to Panama. According to Micucci, all but six of the 30 employees were placed in other positions with Grainger.

In January, the company announced it would close its Green Bay warehouse and lay off around 43 employees. Employees were told they could apply to jobs at the Janesville warehouse; seven have transferred to date, Micucci said.

He added that the company has no plans for additional job reductions in Wisconsin. In fact, more than 220 people have been hired in the Janesville facility since January. However, since 2011, the number of employees in Janesville has increased by 50 people, to around 900 — still 80 jobs shy of its target.

W.W. Grainger is publicly traded and has paid shareholders increasing dividends for the past several years.

In a recent earnings statement, Chairman and CEO Jim Ryan told shareholders that the company responded to challenging market conditions in 2015 by “restructuring several of our businesses, resulting in a leaner cost structure.” Grainger closed 49 U.S. branches last year and, according to Ryan, “will continue to execute changes” in 2016.

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (www.WisconsinWatch.org) collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.


2015: The year Wisconsin lost itself

In 2015, Wisconsin completed a 180-degree turn away from the state’s lauded history as a model of good government. The year saw the fruition of a process set into motion in 2011, when conservative Republicans gerrymandered the state so they couldn’t lose. They stopped even pretending that we live in a democracy in which opposing viewpoints have the right to be heard. Instead they proved the axiom that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Their changes to the fundamental character of Wisconsin have occurred so fast and furiously the media and progressive groups haven’t been able to keep up with them. Stories that would have grabbed headlines in prior years were buried in the avalanche of game-changing laws tumbling out of the Capitol.

For every legislative travesty that’s been publicized in time to stop it through public outcry — such as the measure to abolish the state’s open records law, which was slipped quietly into the budget on a Friday afternoon — there have been dozens of other reckless laws enacted. Wisconsin citizens are likely to discover many transgressive laws on the books in the coming year that no one except Scott Walker, the Legislature’s Republican leadership and a few of their corporate backers are even aware of.

There’s not enough room in this editorial to enumerate all of the new measures that go against the grain of Wisconsin’s history. But we can say with certainty that few of them have spurred our economy, which is what our current leaders vowed to do when they were voted into office.

Walker did not create anywhere near the 250,000 jobs he promised. The state has hovered near the bottom of job producers for most of his time in office. Wisconsin has the fastest shrinking middle class is the nation; median household income here has fallen at the nation’s highest rate since Walker took office.

Walker has doled out $279 million of taxpayer money in the form of tax credits — many more millions than are allowable under the law — to businesses that failed to create jobs, partly because they weren’t even required to do so in exchange for their corporate welfare. Some of that money has disappeared into thin air, leaving no trace of where it went. This is money that, along with Walker‘s tax cuts to the wealthy, was supposed to create jobs. Instead it left Wisconsin with a budget shortfall and without any way to restore Walker’s draconian cuts to education, the worst in the nation. It left the state with no way to repair its crumbling infrastructure or maintain its natural splendor. It left no money to accomplish the myriad of things required for the state to really grow its economy and maintain its quality of life.

In truth, Walker and the Republicans have paid scant attention to the economy. The majority of their efforts have gone toward appeasing corporate and right-wing special interests in order to keep themselves in power. And they’ve abused that power by getting rid of a panoply of laws passed to ferret out and prosecute political corruption. It’s impossible to believe politicians who prioritize eliminating government watchdog groups and related prosecutorial officers have their sights set on good deeds.

Instead of jobs, Walker and his GOP colleagues have focused on issues such as expanding gun ownership, fighting same-sex marriage and women’s reproductive freedom, eliminating environmental protections, telling people getting food stamps what they can buy, packing state government with inexperienced cronies, repealing laws involving fair wages, such as the equal pay law for women … the list feels endless and hopeless.

Scott Walker promised last year during his re-election campaign that he would not seek the presidency in 2016. But he was the first to throw his hat in the ring. He went on to neglect his responsibilities here and the lunacy of his public behavior and remarks made a laughingstock of Wisconsin.

He seemed to return to his lesser job angry and dejected — more determined than ever to reshape the state according to his impenetrable and conflicted ideals.

How well he’s succeeded.

The only hope for the future is that Democratic and Republican voters alike get out next year and vote for candidates they can trust to focus on the issues that are important to our collective future — and not to candidates who are intent only on furthering their personal interests and those of their patrons.

UPDATED: Court upholds tax credits in Obamacare

The Supreme Court on June 25 rejected a conservative effort to sever a major lifeline in the Affordable Care Act — the tax subsidies that help millions of Americans buy health care insurance on the federal exchange.

“The Affordable Care Act is here to stay,” President Barack Obama said in a White House news conference after learning of the court’s 6-3 decision.

The majority rejected the conservative effort backed by Republican leaders in states such as Wisconsin by upholding the credits available on the federal marketplace at healthcare.gov.

In King v. Burwell, conservatives tried to undermine the Affordable Care Act that Congress passed in 2010 in by seeking to eliminate the tax credits for those who live where the leadership refused to create state exchanges. Wisconsin is one of 34 states.

The conservatives’ argument in King was that the Affordable Care Act made the credits available only to those who purchased their insurance on an exchange “established by the state.” They argued this excluded those who purchased insurance through the federal exchange operated by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. 

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion for the majority. “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” Roberts wrote. “If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter.”

He also wrote, “The context and structure of the Act compel us to depart from what would otherwise be the most natural reading of the pertinent statutory phrase.”

Roberts was joined by Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer.

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the dissent and was joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas. The Affordable Care Act has been derided and celebrated as “Obamacare.” Scalia wrote, “We should start calling this law SCOTUScare.” 

The dissenter said the majority’s ruling was “interpretative jiggery-pokery” and complained that it was not the job of the Supreme Court to clean up Congress’ sloppy work.

The court’s ruling preserves the subsidies that more than 8 million people receive and an estimated 6.4 million people were at risk of losing if the majority had gone the other way.

Reaction to the court’s ruling was swift.

Shortly after the justices’ midmorning announcement, Minority Leader Harry Reid was on the Senate floor: “Enough’s enough. Let’s move on.”

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said in a statement, “This is a victory for common sense and for all American families. It is long past time for Republicans to abandon their assault on the newfound health security that the Affordable Care Act is providing millions and millions of Americans across the country.”

Wisconsin Democrats cheered the ruling and called on Gov. Scott Walker to expand access to health care in the state, including expanding Medicaid coverage. Walker has been a steadfast opponent of the Affordable Care Act and his administration has dramatically cut state health care programs.

“The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land,” said U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison. “Now Gov. Walker must expand Medicaid coverage for Wisconsinites across the state. This would solve his budget problems and save our state $345 million over the next two years — ensuring Wisconsin children and families receive the care they need.”

For the GOP, Wisconsinite and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said the court ruling “makes it clear that if we want to fix our broken health care system, then we will need to elect a Republican president with proven ideas and real solutions that will help American families.”

By the numbers

> More than 183,000 Wisconsinites purchased health care insurance through the federal marketplace, as of March 31. 

> About 90.7 percent of Wisconsinites enrolled in the federal exchange received financial assistance to help lower the cost of their coverage, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

> The uninsured rate in Wisconsin dropped 2.1 percentage points from 2013 to 2014. The uninsured rate went from 11.7 percent to 9.6 percent.

> Ahead of the court ruling, the Urban Institute calculated that 247,000 Wisconsinites would be unable to afford health insurance coverage and would become uninsured if they lost their tax credits.

— L.N.

Obama administration: No quick fix if court kills health subsidies

President Barack Obama’s health secretary told Congress this week that she has no administrative actions available to fix the “massive damage to our health care system” that would result should the Supreme Court invalidate federal subsidies that help millions of Americans buy health care coverage.

The letter from Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell continued the administration’s tough stance in its building confrontation with Republican lawmakers in advance of an expected Supreme Court decision in June.

In that case, conservatives and Republicans argue that Obama’s 2010 health care law only provides government subsidies for people buying health coverage through marketplaces established by the states. Just 13 states established their own marketplaces, while the remaining 37 use the federal government’s HealthCare.gov.

A victory by the plaintiffs could mean that people who have enrolled this year for policies through HealthCare.gov could not get subsidies. More than 8 million have enrolled, and most would qualify for aid.

In her letter to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Burwell reiterated her warnings that a win for the plaintiffs would cause millions to lose health coverage because they could no longer afford it. That, in turn, would mean that disproportionately high numbers of sick, lower-earning people would continue buying health coverage, driving up health insurance costs for everyone else, she said.

“We know of no administrative actions that could, and therefore we have no plans that would, undo the massive damage to our health care system that would be caused by an adverse decision,” Burwell wrote.

For months, Burwell and other administration officials have angered GOP lawmakers by stating they have taken no steps in preparation for a Supreme Court victory by the plaintiffs.

“By admitting they have no contingency plan to assist the millions that may lose subsidies, the administration confirms how the misguided law is unworkable for the American people,” Hatch said in a written statement.

By the time the court rules, Hatch and other top congressional Republicans hope to have proposals ready to protect people who now rely on the subsidies while curbing other parts of the law.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., among those crafting a GOP response to the court case, said Burwell’s letter acknowledges that Obama “does not have the authority to use administrative actions to undo the decision.” Republicans have objected to past Obama administrative actions on subjects like immigration and global warming.

Legal standing questions unlikely to derail Supreme Court arguments on ACA

Despite questions about four challengers’ legal right to bring their lawsuit, the U.S. Supreme Court probably will not be deterred from deciding whether millions of people covered by the health care overhaul are eligible for the subsidies that make their insurance affordable.

The court will hear arguments in early March over whether the health law allows people in states without their own insurance markets to receive federal tax credits that reduce coverage costs. The number of uninsured could rise by 8 million if the subsidies disappear, two independent think tanks have estimated.

The challengers, who live in Virginia, object to being forced to get insurance or pay a penalty. If the subsidies were not available, they would not pay a penalty for failing to be insured because even the cheapest health plan would be too costly, according to sworn statements they filed in 2013.

But the Wall Street Journal reported that two are Vietnam veterans who probably could obtain health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs, meaning they would not be affected by the subsidies issue. The newspaper and Mother Jones reported that a third plaintiff lived in a motel at the time that her address and age were used to calculate the cost of insurance. She now lives elsewhere in the state.

The fourth is a substitute school teacher in Richmond who said she could not recall how she became involved in the case.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, an anti-regulatory group, is paying for the legal challenges and recruited the four.

The right to get into court on an issue is known as standing.

“The important thing is there has to be someone in the case who is actually injured by the law,” said Tara Grove, a law professor at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. “That is what determines whether the court has jurisdiction.” It takes just one person who has been harmed to keep a lawsuit alive, Grove said.

The Obama administration or the justices could ask lawyers for the challengers to address the questions that have been raised about the four. The Justice Department contended that two would have earned too little to be subject to the penalty, but lower courts rejected that argument. The administration did not challenge the presence of any of the four at the Supreme Court.

The court could raise the topic on its own. But given its decision to take up the health law even in the absence of the usual requirement that lower courts be divided on an issue, several legal experts doubted the plaintiffs’ situations would derail the case.

“For a test case, these are not the best people one could put forward. It’s hard for them to demonstrate that they’ve had an actual injury,” said Robert Dudley, a professor of government and politics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

But the court creates its own rules on whether it can reach a decision in a case, Dudley said. “I can cite the rules, but it’s up to the court and the court will often take some very shaky cases because an issue is important. I honestly think this won’t affect the court much,” he said.

Questions about a party’s standing seem to become important at the Supreme Court only when a majority is unwilling to settle an issue or the court is unable to produce five votes for any particular outcome. In 2013, the challenge to California’s Proposition 8 same-sex marriage ban foundered on the issue of standing. The result left in place a lower court ruling holding that the ban was constitutional.

Jonathan Adler, a law professor who helped formulate the challenge to the subsidies, said efforts to sink the case over questions about the plaintiffs fit with the desire of the administration and health law supporters to delay a resolution of this case. Adler said they believe that it becomes harder to undo the tax credits the longer people receive them. “It would surprise me if the information in the affidavits wasn’t true and there was suddenly any problem for all the plaintiffs in this case,” Adler said.

Supporters of the law said questions about the plaintiffs make a broader point about the case.

“To me, what all this confirms is that people who weren’t really affected by the statute are bringing ideologically and politically based claims that will substantially affect millions of other people. This is the use of the courts as a political forum,” said Robert Weiner, a former Justice Department official who was deeply involved in the 2012 Supreme Court case that upheld the law.

There’s nothing unusual about interest groups on the right and the left driving suits and seeking plaintiffs willing to be the faces of a court fight, Grove said. “You know courts are influenced to some degree by the facts of the case,” she said. “It’s just good lawyering to make sure you have clients who are sympathetic.”

On the Web…

Filing in health care case: http://tinyurl.com/ks86nmr