Boots & Sabers

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Tag: Budget

Evers Budget Includes Over $1.1 Billion in Tax and Fee Increases

Nothing says, “I care about Wisconsinites who lost their livelihoods in a pandemic” like jacking up taxes.

In summary, the changes included in the Governor’s budget would increase net taxes by $1,020,728,000 ($464,824,000 in 2021-22 and $555,904,000 in 2022-23) and would increase net fees by $17,162,700 ($7,172,900 in 2021-22 and $9,989,800 in 2022-23). In addition, it is estimated that measures included in AB 68/SB 111 to enhance the collection of current taxes would generate an additional $78,031,700 ($38,745,800 in 2021-22 and $39,285,900 in 2022-23).

Evers Spends Projected Surplus, and Then Some

Jinkees

Gov. Tony Evers’ biennial budget proposal fulfills many Democratic priorities with big spending increases, but Republicans have raised concern that the $91 billion proposal would almost entirely drain the state’s coffers — by close to $2 billion — and leave Wisconsin in a more precarious financial position down the road.

 

The state is projected to have a nearly $2 billion surplus in its general fund by the end of the year, but Evers’ projected budget, which includes $1.6 billion in new tax revenue from marijuana, big manufacturers and the wealthy, still reduces that to around $143 million by mid-2023.

Remember that the surplus is just projected. It may be more. It may be less. But either way, Evers wants to spend it all and raise taxes to boot.

And this is possibly the dumbest statement I’ve read today:

“It’s not necessarily inappropriate to draw down a big chunk of your reserves when you’re facing a once-in-100-years pandemic,” Wisconsin Policy Forum research director Jason Stein said. “You don’t have the reserves just to put them on a wall and admire them, but at the same time … you have to think about what’s going to be sustainable for the state budget because some of these challenges are not just going to evaporate either.”

A projected surplus is not “reserves.” Stein suggests that the surplus is some sort of rainy day fund. It is not. It is projected surplus revenue because tax collections were higher than expected and/or spending was less than expected. That money could be rolled into the next budget, used to pay off debt early, or it could also be given back to the people because we didn’t need to spend it. Evers just wants to spend it.
Then Stein goes on to suggest that it might make sense to spend it because of the pandemic. But the mere fact that we have a project surplus tells us that the government has sufficient money for expenses without drawing from any rainy day fund. While the pandemic impacted thousands of people and businesses, the government did just fine. The fact that we had a pandemic should not be used as a lazy excuse for more government spending.

Make Wisconsin a destination state

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. I continue to charge the windmill of Wisconsin government’s spending problem. Here’s a part:

Wisconsin cannot reduce the cost of government and, subsequently, the cost of living if it does not reduce government spending.

One wonders where all of that spending is going. Both states have world-class public universities, but Texas state taxpayers spend less than 50% per capita on them. Both states have a good transportation infrastructure, but Wisconsin state taxpayers spend 13.8% more per capita. Wisconsin is spending almost 28% more on K-12 education for marginally better results, but the student demographics are drastically different.

Generally, as one goes through the state budget, Wisconsin spends much more on almost everything than other states. It is difficult to see any additional value for all of that additional spending. “Value” should be the word that dominates the upcoming state budget debate. If taxpayers are going to spend 10%, 25%, or 50% more on something than other states, then state politicians should be able to articulate how taxpayers are getting 10%, 25%, or 50% more value for the dollars spent. If they can’t, then the spending is just being wasted.

The upcoming budget session is another opportunity for Wisconsin policy-makers to make the choices that will determine if Wisconsin will ever be a destination state for businesses and workers. If they choose to keep increasing spending because it is the path of least resistance, then businesses and people will continue to relocate into other states and Wisconsin will miss this historic opportunity when businesses are going to be moving more than ever.

State of Wisconsin Projects Surplus Despite COVID

Well, this is surprising.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau on Monday reported state tax collections totaled more than $17.5 billion in the 2019-20 fiscal year, a 1.1% increase from the previous year. That’s about $112.6 million, or only 0.6%, less than projected in January, according to the state Department of Revenue.

[…]

A final report released in October will include expenditures and revenues, but Lang said he doesn’t anticipate any major changes and the state will likely end the fiscal year with “a relatively large balance.”

This is good news, but it is not the whole story. The budget impacts will be felt for some time.

“I would say that while all this is good news, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t tough days ahead,” Nygren said. “If you don’t do additional reductions between now and the end of this second year of the budget, all the negative impacts will fall into the next budget. … My opinion is it’s better to make those tough decisions now.”

The full impact of COVID-19 remains to be seen in Wisconsin, including on businesses and individuals drawing unemployment. Last week, the Department of Workforce Development reported nearly 500,000 claimants have been paid more than $3.5 billion in unemployment benefits since March 15.

More State Budget Cuts Are Necessary

More, MUCH more, will be necessary.

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – About $70 million in budgetary spending cuts have taken effect across several agencies as the state tries to manage the likely long-term economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The largest cut is with the UW System which saw a $40.8 million budget reduction. The next largest cut was for the Department of Health Services which saw a cut of $7.5 million.

The Evers administration’s planned actions were initially praised by Republicans, but have since drawn some criticism.

“After claiming that he would cut state operations spending by 5%, the plan released by Governor Tony Evers […] shows actual cuts to operations spending of less than 2.5%,” Rep. John Nygren (R – Marinette) said in a statement released this week. “Making matters worse, nearly two-thirds of the cuts are being shouldered by the UW System. While Gov. Evers’ initial announcement was promising, this additional information leaves more questions than answers.”

Tax Cut Heads to Evers’ Desk

Remember that we do not have a tax surplus… yet. We have a projection that says that we will have a surplus at the end of the budget next summer. Bearing that in mind, this is a good bill. It takes a projection that says that the state is collecting more taxes than it needs and reduces the taxes accordingly. If the projection is wrong and we head into deficit, then they can adjust taxes the other direction. To my point in a column a few weeks ago, however, this is not spending money we don’t have. It isn’t spending anything at all. It is simply having the government collect LESS so that it does not run as much of a surplus over the term of the current budget.

The tax cut bill would would deliver an average reduction of $106 for most qualifying filers. Married couples who file jointly would see an average cut of $145; all other filers would see an average reduction of $81. The bill also would reduce taxes for manufacturers by nearly $45 million by exempting their machinery and tools from property taxes and trim state debt by $100 million.

This is a good bill. It is unfortunate that Governor Evers will likely veto is so that the government can overcharge for their services and spend more.

Taxes Up. Spending Up More.

Despite record taxing, the state will still not have enough to cover it’s projected spending. It’s the spending, stupid.

Wisconsin had the highest budget reserves in 40 years this June largely due to a spike in corporate tax revenues, according to a report from the nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum. However, the report says the state’s reserves are still slightly below the national average and the current state budget will spend $800 million more than the state is projected to take in by 2021.

The analysis looked at Wisconsin’s Annual Fiscal Report that provides data on state taxes, spending and reserves. It shows the state had $1.7 billion in budget reserves after taking in more than $17 billion in tax revenues during the prior fiscal year, which ended June 30. That was a year-over-year increase of 7.4 percent and the largest annual percentage increase since 2000, according to the report.

Jason Stein, a researcher for Wisconsin Policy Forum, said the overall increase in the state’s tax revenues was driven largely by a spike in the amount of Wisconsin corporate tax revenues. He said the state collected more than $442 million in corporate taxes.

“Corporate taxes, especially, rose almost 50 percent,” said Stein. “So, that was the most they have risen, the fastest rate since 1964. So, that’s really an exceptional change. And it was due to a couple things and one of them was due to that federal tax law.”

Give. It. Back.

There are only three acceptable uses for a government surplus. 1) return it to the taxpayers; 2) pay down debt; & 3) put it in the rainy day fund. In this case, the rainy day fund is already well funded. In this case, they should just give it back.

Wisconsin collected $76 million more in taxes than anticipated last fiscal year, prompting lawmakers from both parties to claim credit for a sign of positive economic growth in the state.

The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau on Monday announced general fund tax collections for the 2018-19 fiscal year, which ended June 30, were up 7.4% from the previous year.

The $17.3 billion collected in taxes was $75.5 million, or 0.4%, more than anticipated in May when the state was finalizing its 2019-21 budget.

Oh, and tax cuts work… just sayin’.

Evers Signs Budget

The MacIver Institute has a good rundown of the budget after Evers’ 78 line item vetoes. Here’s the short version: Evers got 80% of what he wanted, so he signed it with a few tweaks. Big-spending Republicans got 80% of what they wanted. Conservatives got nothing.

Politically speaking, this was a disaster for Republicans. They managed to piss off conservatives in their base with a big-spending budget without appeasing or winning a single vote from the other side. Meanwhile, Evers walks away with a 80% win and can continue to demonize Republicans for not giving him everything.

Governor Evers Considers Budget

Frankly, I hope Evers vetoes the entire thing.

Evers received the budget on Friday. He has until July 5 to decide what to do.

The Journal Times asked Evers’ office about specific provisions in the budget regarding transportation and education, along with several Racine County-centered provisions. Evers’ office did not specifically respond.

Evers’ office stated that the governor’s “team is reviewing the Legislature’s changes to the budget, and the governor looks forward to receiving the biennial budget bill as soon possible.”

The worst case scenario is that Evers vetoes out the few good things in this budget, like the tax cut, and leave the rest of the crap (massive spending increases, fee increases, etc.) in place. Wisconsin would be better off if Evers vetoes the whole thing and we revert to the previous budget. And then, perhaps, the Republicans will realize that their duty is to their constituents and not Evers and the Madison swamp.

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One more thing… this is a big part of the problem:

“The reality is he’s the governor for four years, so you can either choose to argue 24/7, or set aside things that would cause arguments and focus on the things where you can hopefully find that middle ground,” Vos said.

What an incorrect vision of the job of the opposition leader. If Speaker Vos is just going to lead the Republicans to “set aside things that would cause arguments,” then what is the point? The entire point of having more than one party is that they DISAGREE and ARGUE about it. If Vos is just going to do his job with the goal of avoiding arguments, then he is the wrong person for the job.

 

Assembly Passes Crap Budget

What a disgrace.

On a largely party-line vote, the Republican-controlled state Assembly on Tuesday approved an $81 billion, two-year spending plan with last-minute changes to increase funding for district attorneys and allow carmaker Tesla to sell directly to consumers.

The changes could appease a handful of skeptical conservatives in the Senate, which is also controlled by Republicans and where one more “no” vote could sink the budget in that chamber.

Senators take up the plan Wednesday. If passed, it would then go to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who has broad authority to make changes.

Here is the vote.

Huzzah, huzzah for local representatives Gundrum, Brandtjen, and Ramthun. Apparently, they are the only conservatives left in the Assembly. How quickly this caucus snapped back to the Left without Governor Walker as a guardrail.

What’s wrong with you, Knodl? Jagler? Sanfelippo? Is this what you think your constituents want, or have you gone native? This vote is disgraceful.

And Robin Vos? You will never be governor of this state. You peaked and you blew your chance to be anything more than yet another Madison swamp creature.

Now we head to the State Senate. Hopefully my senator, Duey Stroebel, has a change in heart from his ill-advised JFC vote, joins the other conservatives in the caucus, and spiked this budget until they can come up with something better.

Assembly to Vote on Budget Tomorrow

Just vote NO.

MADISON (CBS 58) — The state assembly is set to vote on Wisconsin’s next budget this Tuesday. However, lawmakers on both sides will have to compromise before it’s passed.

University of Milwaukee political science professor Mordecai Lee said that’s the challenging part. “The Republican Legislature and the Democratic Governor are barely talking to each other.”

Two GOP lawmakers have threatened to vote against the $81-billion proposal drafted by their party. If one more Republican senator vows to vote against it, the budget won’t pass.

Those senators say there’s too much spending. “Overall the spending has just taken over. It is less than Tony Evers’ budget, however, Tony Evers’ budget was astronomically expensive,” said Sen. Stephen Nass.

A failure of GOP leadership in Legislature

My column for the West Bend Daily News is online and in print. I’m not a fan of the budget that the JFC passed. Yes, they resisted the ultra-liberal policy ideas of Evers, but this budget could have been passed by any Democratic legislature in the past 40 years and you wouldn’t be able to tell a difference.

Wisconsin’s Joint Finance Committee has finished the state budget and sent it to each house of the Legislature for approval. House Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald have said that they expect their respective houses to pass the budget and send it to the governor within the next few weeks. Conservatives in both houses will have to delay that timetable because this budget still needs a lot of work.

Simply put, the budget passed by the Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee spends too much, borrows too much, raises too many taxes and fees, and fails to deliver on the promises made by Republican politicians in the last election.

When Gov. Tony Evers was elected, Wisconsinites knew that they were getting a governor who is much more liberal than Gov. Scott Walker. What they did not fully appreciate, perhaps, is just how liberal and rigid Governor Evers would be. During the first few months of Evers’ term, the Republicans reached out several times to find common ground and compromise on some of Evers’ stated initiatives. Each and every time, Evers rebuffed them and insulted their efforts to anyone who would listen. Evers even went so far as to call Republican leaders sexist for having the temerity to want to actually speak with the governor instead of his underlings.

While isolating himself in his Fortress of Hebetude, Governor Evers underscored his unwillingness to compromise by unleashing a budget proposal so riddled with liberal largesse that the Republicans in the Legislature had to toss it in the dustbin and start from scratch. Yet, despite everything, the budget passed by the Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee is far closer to Evers’ budget than they would like to admit. They cast aside most of Evers’ liberal policies, but left in place the bulk of the spending and taxing.

Overall, the budget passed by the JFC increases state government spending by about $4 billion, or 5.2%. That compares to a spending increase of $6.4 billion, or 8.3%, proposed by Governor Evers. That compares to an average inflation-adjusted personal income growth rate of 1.5% since the Great Recession according to the Pew Charitable Trust. Once again, state government spending outstrips Wisconsinites’ ability to pay.

Where is all of that spending going? The JFC budget includes spending an additional $500 million on K-12 schools. This is on top of the $639 million in additional spending that the Republicans included in the previous budget. The JFC budget spends more than $12 billion on K-12 education — by far the largest total in state history. But despite the massive spending increases, Wisconsin’s government schools continue

to deliver mediocre results. Spending more money on mediocrity will only encourage more mediocrity.

The JFC budget spends an additional $58 million on the UW System. This is the same system that lavishly wastes money on useless infrastructure and bloated staff while enrollment continues to decline. On top of the $58 million for operations, the UW System would receive another $1 billion to dump into more buildings. Much like so many local school districts, UW officials continue to prioritize swank buildings over delivering a better education.

When it comes to transportation, the JFC budget would spend an additional $484 million. Despite a recent report that detailed the waste and poor management that is endemic in the Department of Transportation, Republicans decided to throw more money into the pockets of the road builders without demanding a single iota of additional accountability or reform. Once again, the spending comes with a promise of some future reform that nobody really believes will happen.

I could go on, but you get the point. At the last minute, the Republicans threw in a moderate income tax cut of $321.5 million that would lower the second-lowest income tax bracket. While tax cuts are always welcome, this one is a calculated distraction. Evers will almost certainly use his powerful line-item veto power to veto the tax cut while leaving all of the spending in place. Republicans will then loudly wail about the veto of tax cuts in the press while celebrating the spending increases in private. It is the kind of cynical political gamesmanship that make people hate politicians.

The Republican leaders and the Joint Finance Committee had the opportunity to pass a fiscally conservative budget that drew a sharp contrast with Evers’ liberal budget. Instead, they gave the people a budget that could have been passed by any Democratic Wisconsin Legislature in the past 40 years. Now it is up to the rank-and-file Republicans and conservatives in the legislature to buck their leadership’s tax and spend proclivities and give the people who elected them a budget they can afford.

JFC Passes Budget

This is a dog of a budget and yet another missed opportunity by Republicans.

Republicans on the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee voted along party lines Thursday to pass a two-year state budget that rejected many of Gov. Tony Evers’ top priorities, saying their plan lives within the state’s means while increasing funds for schools and roads.

Republicans also voted Thursday for plans that would cut taxes on the average taxpayer by about $75 in the 2019 tax year and $136 in 2020, which would amount to a $457.6 million income tax cut overall.

[…]

Speaking shortly after the vote, Sen. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Senate Republicans would meet to discuss the budget on Tuesday. Some GOP senators, like Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, have said they’re unhappy with how much the bill would borrow and spend, not to mention increased fees on vehicle titles and registration.

The news outlets are horrible about reporting the budget. They spend a lot of time comparing it to Evers’ budget and talking about the politics of it without actually telling us what’s in the blasted budget. You can go to the JFC website to get details, but you have to dig.

In the last budget, the Republicans missed the opportunity to pass a real conservative budget and it was a substantial reason why a lot of Republicans sat home last year. Here they go again. I get that we have a liberal governor with a powerful veto pen, but the Republicans barely even phoned in a fight over spending. The budget just passed by the JFC increases spending by $4 billion dollars, lavishly rewards money pits like Transportation and UW without even a hint of reform, and jacks up fees. The legislative Republicans on the JFC and in leadership gave in to the pressures of Madison and ignored the people who elected them.

Then, perhaps realizing that this budget is bad, they throw in a tax cut as a separate bill to distract us from how awful the budget is – knowing full well that as a separate bill, Governor Evers will veto it. Imagine what kind of tax cut we could have if they actually cut spending and put the tax cut into the budget. Imagine if Republicans fought for their constituents like Democrats do.

Speaker Vos, Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald, and the Republicans on JFC should be ashamed of themselves.

It’s the Spending, Stupid

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here you go:

Wisconsin has long been a tax hell where it is more expensive to live, work, and play than in most other states. Gov. Scott Walker and the legislative Republicans made some progress over the last eight years in making the state more affordable, but now many of those same legislative Republicans are allowing the state to slide back.

One of the myths perpetuated by Wisconsin’s liberals is that Governor Walker and the Republicans cut spending and starved government when Walker was in office. We have all heard the claims of cutting “to the bone” and draconian austerity measures. All of those claims are wrong. The truth is that every state budget that Walker signed spent more than the previous one.

What Walker and his Republican partners in the Legislature did was keep the spending increases smaller than normal while cutting taxes, deregulating, and aggressively working to improve the business climate. The result was a sustained period of improving in the national tax burden rankings (primarily because other states were jacking up taxes while Wisconsin held steady), higher employment, private-sector growth, and increasing tax revenues that resulted in budget surpluses.

It is a formula that works for a while, but it does not fix the root cause of the issue. Wisconsin is a tax hell because the government spends too much. Politicians can feed the spending beast without tax increases for a while by borrowing, juicing the economy with tax cuts and deregulation, and financial gimmickry, but eventually the bill must be paid. State government does not have the ability to print money like the federal government.

Now that Governor Walker has been replaced by a doctrinaire, tax-and-spend Gov. Tony Evers, the legislative Republicans who worked so well with Walker are regressing.

The state budget is being crafted by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee. Once the JFC is finished with the budget, it will be sent for votes and possible amendments in the Assembly and the Senate. Since the Republicans still command sizable majorities in both houses of the Legislature, the Republicans are in complete control of what goes into, and what gets left out of, the budget.

Over the past few weeks, the Republicans on the JFC have been on a spending spree. They decided to spend an additional $500 million on K-12 education despite no correlation between spending and educational

outcomes. The Republicans increased spending on UW by $58 million even though the UW System has refused to consolidate and economize in the face of declining enrollment.

Last week, the JFC cranked up spending on transportation to the tune of $484 million. Perhaps remembering the 2017 audit completed by the Legislative Audit Bureau that found billions of dollars of waste and overruns in the Department of Transportation, Republican leaders have promised a series of reform bills are in the works, but it is worth noting that they are willing to spend the money before any reforms are even introduced — much less in place.

On those three items alone, Republican leaders in the Legislature are already committing increasing spending by over a billion dollars — and there are dozens of state departments to go.

Republicans are also already acknowledging that the days of increasing spending without tax increases are over. Their desire to spend more is outstripping their ability to keep taxes in check. In order to support the spending increases for transportation, the Republicans voted to increase vehicle title fees by $95 and annual registration fees by $10. They expect these to extract an additional $393 million from hardworking Wisconsinites to support their gross spending habit.

Even during the Walker era, Wisconsin’s Republicans have never been able to shake their spending addiction. They spend a little less than Democrats, but never actually cut spending. And if we never cut spending, we can never sustain cutting taxes. Now that Governor Evers has moved the spending goal even higher, the Republicans in the Legislature seem to be reveling in exploding spending without any pressure from the governor’s office to restrain themselves.

The Republicans lost every statewide election in Wisconsin last year largely because they gave up on the conservative revolution and failed to give the Republican grass roots anything to be excited about. Their behavior in this budget is evidence that they have not learned the lesson.

Massive State Surplus

How about y’all give it back instead of spending it?

MADISON, Wis. (WSAW) — $753 million more than anticipated: that’s what Wisconsin’s legislative fiscal bureau announced Wednesday as extra funding for the next biannual budget.

But Wisconsin’s Department of Revenue (DOR) Secretary Peter Barca tells NewsChannel 7 that extra money may not be quite what it seems.

On Tuesday, the Department of Revenue released a statement showing a sharp increase of revenue coming in from corporate tax collections compared to 2018, which Barca says largely contributed to that extra $753 million.

Wisconsin’s Legislature begins serious budget work

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News yesterday.

When Gov. Tony Evers released his executive budget proposal at the beginning of March, Republican leaders in the Legislature immediately dismissed it as an unserious liberal manifesto — which is precisely what it is. Last week, the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee began the serious work of crafting a budget for Wisconsin. Their first step was to toss most of Evers’ silly budget in the trash and start from scratch. Despite Evers’ bravado, the Republicans have a strong hand to play and are on the right side of public opinion.

In a time of divided government, it is worth remembering the relevant powers of each branch of government. The legislative branch has the power to create legislation and the power over where to spend tax dollars. The executive branch has the power over administrative rules (filling in the gaps to execute laws) and the power to veto legislation which the governor disapproves.

Governor Evers has already shown that he is not shy about using his veto power. In fact, he vetoed the middle-class tax cut, which was the very first bill to reach his desk. But while Evers can veto things he does not like, he does not have the power to create laws that he wants. To get a law that he wants to his desk, Evers must be willing to negotiate and compromise with Republicans, but Evers has shown that he has little aptitude or appetite to deal.

This delineation of powers is relevant to the actions taken by the JFC last week. The committee scrapped almost all of Evers’ non-budgetary policy initiatives including expanding Medicaid, legalizing medical marijuana, capping school choice, increasing the minimum wage, granting driver’s licenses to illegal aliens, repealing right-to-work, closing the dark store loophole, ending the property tax levy freeze for counties and municipalities, and dozens of additional initiatives that never belonged in the budget.

What is left are mostly just the nuts and bolts of funding Wisconsin’s state government, which what the budget is supposed to do. As the legislative Republicans go about assembling those nuts and bolts, recent polls show that a majority of Wisconsinites support conservative legislative goals.

For example, in a recent poll of likely voters conducted for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, a state business group, found that 60% of likely voters oppose raising property taxes on businesses and 53% oppose raising the gas tax. Some 77% oppose raising taxes on manufacturing, And 69% oppose eliminating the property tax levy freeze, and 77% oppose raising energy taxes. Up to 83% oppose indexing gas taxes and 63% oppose eliminating drug testing for welfare recipients.

All of those things that Wisconsinites oppose were things that Governor Evers included in his budget proposal and the Republican threw out — except for the gas tax increase. Republicans should take note of that. They are on the right side of these issues except for some of the Republican leadership’s maddening affection for raising the gas tax.

Over the next few weeks, the Republican-led Legislature is going to hash out a budget and send it to Governor Evers for his signature. Governor Evers has arguably the most sweeping veto power in the nation with the ability to strike out words and sentences to make the budget more to his liking, or he could veto the whole thing. What he cannot do is write new language into the law. That is the exclusive prerogative of the Legislature.

What Governor Evers decides to do with the budget will determine how likely he is going to be able to get any of his agenda done for the rest of his term. If he uses his veto pen to strike out every Republican initiative he can, then those same Republicans are unlikely to every put a bill that Evers wants on his desk. If he accepts some compromise, then some of the ideas stricken from his budget proposal may see life again in a separate bill.

In the end, the Legislature holds an ace. Wisconsin will not shut down if Evers vetoes the entire budget and the state enters the new fiscal year without a new budget. By law, the old budget that was passed by many of the same legislative Republicans and signed by Gov. Scott Walker will continue in force. From a conservative perspective, a new fiscal year with no spending increases and no tax increases sounds pretty great.

Wisconsin’s Legislature begins serious budget work

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a sample:

Over the next few weeks, the Republican-led Legislature is going to hash out a budget and send it to Governor Evers for his signature. Governor Evers has arguably the most sweeping veto power in the nation with the ability to strike out words and sentences to make the budget more to his liking, or he could veto the whole thing. What he cannot do is write new language into the law. That is the exclusive prerogative of the Legislature.

What Governor Evers decides to do with the budget will determine how likely he is going to be able to get any of his agenda done for the rest of his term. If he uses his veto pen to strike out every Republican initiative he can, then those same Republicans are unlikely to every put a bill that Evers wants on his desk. If he accepts some compromise, then some of the ideas stricken from his budget proposal may see life again in a separate bill.

In the end, the Legislature holds an ace. Wisconsin will not shut down if Evers vetoes the entire budget and the state enters the new fiscal year without a new budget. By law, the old budget that was passed by many of the same legislative Republicans and signed by Gov. Scott Walker will continue in force. From a conservative perspective, a new fiscal year with no spending increases and no tax increases sounds pretty great.

Legislature Starts Digging Into Evers Sham Budget

They should still repeal minimum markup, but not as a budget item. They should do it for the sake of consumers and economic freedom.

MADISON – State Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson conceded Wednesday that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ plan to eliminate a required markup on gasoline may not save as much money as his boss has claimed.

Thompson made the acknowledgment as Republicans who control the Legislature’s budget committee ripped apart Evers’ budget and made clear they would not go along with plans he campaigned on.

“Today is a reset for the budget as proposed,” Rep. John Nygren, co-chairman of the Joint Finance Committee, said at the committee’s first budget meeting.

The Marinette Republican called the plan “irresponsible” because of its $1.3 billion in tax increases before the panel heard testimony from Evers’ allies who oversee the departments of public instruction, transportation and health services.

Public input on the next state budget

My column for the Washington County Daily News is in print and online. Go get a copy! Here’s a taste:

Gov.-elect Tony Evers and Lt. Gov.-elect Mandela Barnes have announced they will hold four public listening sessions before Christmas to get the public’s input on the upcoming state budget. The four sessions will be today in Green Bay, Wednesday in Wausau, Dec. 18 in La Crosse and Dec. 19 in Milwaukee.

Since all four sessions begin during working hours and, like most tax-paying Wisconsinites, I work for a living, I will not be able to attend and give the incoming administration my thoughts in person. This column will have to suffice.

As the Legislature and governor begin the process of crafting the next state budget, they must do so with the understanding that Wisconsin is not immune from the economic winds blowing across the nation. While the underlying economic metrics remain strong, several leading indicators, including the wild movements in the stock market, foretell a looming recession within the next year or two.

Since Wisconsin uses a biennial budget, it is likely the next recession will come during the budget our elected officials are about to write. They must write that budget understanding recessions always lead to a decrease in state tax revenue while making higher demands on state services like welfare and Badger-Care. To that end, the overriding objective of the next state budget should be to reduce spending, reduce taxes and continue to pump money into the state’s rainy day fund, because rainy days are in the forecast.

From a revenue standpoint, the state of Wisconsin is in great shape. Thanks to the series of tax cuts that Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican legislators have delivered over the past few years, tax revenue is flowing into state coffers at historic levels. There is no shortage of money for politicians to spend.

While the Republicans have done a tremendous job in the previous few budgets, they have failed to reduce spending. Despite claims to the contrary, every single state budget for the last generation or more has spent more than the previous budget. Granted, the Republicans did not increase spending as much as the Democrats wanted to, but they increased spending nonetheless.

The vast majority of state spending is spent on a handful of budget priorities. One cannot seriously reduce spending without looking to the big budget items. The first area Evers and the Legislature should look is at education spending.

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