Empower Wisconsin | Dec. 24, 2020
MADISON, Wis. — In this season of generosity, Gov. Tony Evers is the gift that keeps on giving. And when we say gift, we mean laughter.
Big spender Tony is claiming credit for a milestone achievement in the state’s finances: The first time in decades that Wisconsin has ended the year in the black under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).
“Our diligence of investing in the issues Wisconsinites care about without running up the state’s credit card has paid off and helps us ensure Wisconsin’s future economic stability, which is as important as ever,” the Democrat said. “This is great news for our state and will put us in a stronger position to move our state forward and focus on the priorities of the people.”
Team Evers really — and we mean really — had nothing to do with the fiscally responsible achievement. In fact, his first biennial budget proposal would have complicated the state’s fiscal picture, and slowed the road to a positive number.
As state Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam) notes, Evers proposed 2019-21 budget — filled with tax increases and hefty spending increases — was projected to create a GAAP deficit of north of $1 billion by this year.
“Thanks to Republican leadership in the state Legislature, the state reported a positive GAAP balance for the first time since the state began reporting in 1990,” tweeted Born, incoming chairman of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee. He noted that when Republicans took charge in 2011, the GAAP deficit was approaching $3 billion.
That’s when then-Gov. Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans in the Legislature got down to work attacking the truer deficit number. Of course, GAAP, used by businesses, differ from the kind of smoke and mirrors accounting the state uses to arrive at a constitutionally required balanced budget. GAAP aims to provide greater clarity, consistency, and comparability in communicating financial information.
“I first ran for office in part because, as a Certified Public Accountant, I was astonished the state was using borderline fraudulent accounting methods. In 2010, Wisconsin was in the company of California, Illinois, and New Jersey,” said state Sen. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) in a statement. “Today we are fiscally solvent, we have been running budget surpluses, our pension system is nearly fully funded, and our rainy day fund is stronger than ever.”
That fact has nothing to do with Evers, who proposed a massive $6.2 billion increase in the 2019-21 budget. Republican lawmakers checked a significant portion of the governor’s itch to spend.
“It has taken steady fiscal discipline to get us to where we are today, state Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green), co-chair of the Finance Committee. “My Senate district borders Illinois. What a contrast between the financial condition of Wisconsin and Illinois!”
Leave it to Tony Evers to take credit for an improved fiscal situation he has only hindered.