Empower Wisconsin | Dec. 7, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — State Rep. Mark Born steps into a leadership role on the Legislature’s powerful budget-writing committee during some of the most challenging times the state has ever faced.
The Beaver Dam Republican last week was named co-chair of the Joint Committee on Finance. He replaces state Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette), who announced last week he is leaving the Legislature after a 14-year tenure to pursue an opportunity in the private sector.
Born takes the co-chair position in a budget year ravaged by the impacts of COVID-19, from the virus itself — and the economic devastation caused by state and local lockdowns and restrictive public health edicts.
“Obviously, with COVID and the economic impacts of that, everyone is anxious to see the impacts that has on our revenue streams,” the lawmaker said.
Wisconsin is arguably in a better fiscal position than other states, thanks to conservative checks on Gov. Tony Evers’ urge to spend in the state’s current two-year budget.
Evers’ Department of Administration late last month released a report showing moderate revenue growth ahead. A smaller state revenue increase of about $132 million is projected for the current fiscal year, rising to $646 million in 2022-23.
But Born and his conservative colleagues on the Finance Committee know projections are anything but certain, particularly in a historic pandemic.
The new co-chair, who has been a member of the committee for four years (two budgets), says Republicans will continue to focus on balancing the budget and delivering tax cuts for Wisconsinites.
Despite the uncertain fiscal times, state agencies haven’t lost their appetite to spend. DPI is requesting a whopping $1.6 billion increase in its biennial budget — 2021-23.
“We think it’s a realistic budget,” Mike Thompson, DPI Deputy State Superintendent, told Fox47. “We think it’s a budget that prioritzes what the citizens of Wisconsin want for educating their kids.”
“I don’t think many reasonable people in the Legislature look at those kinds of requests and say, ‘That’s realistic,’” he said.
Evers insists Wisconsin’s state agencies have sacrificed plenty because of the pandemic. Earlier this year, the governor asked state agencies, including the University of Wisconsin System, to cut some $300 million out of their budgets. We’ll find out in the next couple of months if Evers believes state government — with an $84 billion biennial budget — has cut enough.
Sources say Born was in the running for the budget leadership post with state Rep. Amy Loudenbeck (R- Clinton), current vice chair of the Finance Committee. Loudenbeck will continue in that role.
“I think in my time here in the Legislature and on this committee I have been doing things to be a leader in the Caucus,” Born said. “Speaker (Robin) Vos considered and interviewed really good candidates for this position. I’m certainly honored he chose me to lead.”
Born said he learned a lot from Nygren, who led several state budgets with Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills). He described Nygren as a friend and a mentor.