MacIver estimates that, throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Wisconsin governments, institutions, businesses, and citizens have received a total of $41.8 billion in aid from the federal government. That’s nearly as much as Wisconsin spends in a typical year: Wisconsin budgeted around $42 billion all funds spending for one year of the 2019-2021 biennium.
Set aside this enormous onslaught of federal cash, and Wisconsin is still in an astonishingly strong fiscal position. Despite predictions that the COVID-19 government lockdown would crater the economy, the state finished the 2020 fiscal year with a $1.2 billion General Fund balance, the largest in two decades. Our state “Rainy Day Fund” finished the fiscal year with a $762 million balance, the “largest balance in state history,” according to the state Department of Administration. Governor Evers also lapsed over $300 million in state agency spending in response to the fiscal toll of the COVID-19 lockdowns. On top of that, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) approved nearly $500 million GPR in taxpayer savings through sum sufficient appropriation re-adjustments and standard budget adjustments.
All told, Wisconsin sits with an estimated total of $2.7 billion available at the state’s disposal.
Between state savings and several waves of federal stimulus money, Wisconsin has benefited from a grand total of $44.6 billion—with a B—in unanticipated cashflow.