Budget surplus nears $6.6 billion, Evers itchy to spend

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — Wisconsin’s closing balance on the current fiscal year is projected to come in much higher than expected, with a surplus of nearly $6.6 billion, according to the state Department of Administration.

Republicans who hold the purse strings are putting Big Government Gov. Tony Evers on notice: The money belongs to taxpayers, not for growing his bloated bureaucracy.

The Evers administration notes the 2022 fiscal year, ended June 30, recorded a General Fund balance of nearly $4.3 billion, more than double what was estimated. Now, DOA projects fiscal year 2023 will finish at $6.576 billion, about $2.7 billion higher than originally projected.

“The fiscal condition is in its strongest position in state history,” the report states.

The rosy fiscal outlook has much to do with the unprecedented amount of federal taxpayer money dumped into state and local governments in the form of COVID aid. The same drunken spending has helped send prices soaring for the average Wisconsinite.

Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green), Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam), co-chairs of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee, say disciplined Republican budgets over the past dozen years and reforms like Act 10 have kept the surpluses coming.

Evers has been chomping at the bit to spend the healthy budget balance, at least $2 billion of that on Wisconsin’s faltering public education system. The Democrat’s state bureaucracies are requesting $3.6 billion more in state funding.

Marklein and Born say the money belongs to Wisconsin’s taxpayers.

“The projected balance does not give the Governor a blank check as he puts together his budget proposal. Instead, it gives us flexibility to fund the programs and agencies that are necessary for prosperity in Wisconsin while cutting taxes to benefit all Wisconsin taxpayers,” the lawmakers said in a statement following DOR’s latest fiscal review.

The governor who wanted to hike taxes by more than $1 billion in his most recent budget proposal, suddenly became a vocal supporter of tax cuts in a tight election. In August, he proposed using some $600 million from the budget surplus for a tax cut. His plan would have targeted mainly middle- and lower-income earners, as well as those who pay little or no state income tax.

Republicans, who control the Legislature, called it an election-year gimmick. They have pledged tax cuts across the board.

“It’s been fascinating to watch Tony Evers’ election-year conversion on taxes. He wanted to raise taxes by $1 billion in his budget. Now, he wants to cut taxes as the political winds change,” Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oosberg) said in August.

The Evers administration boasts about the $1 billion in tax relief this year from the budget the governor signed. But his signature and his record vetoes are about all Evers had to do with the final budget. Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee rebuilt Evers’ hefty 2021-23 budget proposal from the ground up, dumping scores of non-fiscal liberal policy initiatives.

The Institute for Reforming Government is calling for policymakers to use the balance fund boom to enact transformational tax reforms – including eliminating Wisconsin’s personal income tax — “to help right-size state government and put more money back in the pockets of hardworking families and main street businesses.”

“As Wisconsin’s budget surplus continues to grow, it’s abundantly clear that our state is taxing families and small businesses way too much,” IRG Executive Vice President Chris Reader said. “It’s time to reset how the state taxes and spends.”

Last year, IRG laid out a plan to eliminate Wisconsin’s personal income tax, a plan backed by groups such as Americans for Tax Reform, Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin, and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. The proposal, which has drawn critics, too, would nix the income tax by raising the state sales tax by 3 percent.

The Tax Foundation and Badger Institute released a report earlier this year on Tax Reform Options to Improve Wisconsin’s Competitiveness, including a flat tax option.

The budget battles ahead, beginning with Evers’ biennial budget proposal sometime in February, will have to take into account what inflation has done to business, taxpayer, and government buying power and the very real possibility of a deep recession that could have a disastrous impact on tax revenue.

For now, the administration projects general fund balances of more than $9.75 billion by the end of the next biennium in the 2024-25 fiscal year. That estimate, of course, is subject to change.

Wisconsin’s Budget Stabilization Fund (“Rainy Day fund) posted a balance of $1.73 billion at the end of June, the largest in state history. But grow government politicians will be eager to tap into that healthy fund, as they did during the tenure of Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat.

Empower Wisconsin | Nov. 22, 2022

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3 responses to “Budget surplus nears $6.6 billion, Evers itchy to spend”

  1. Denise Avatar

    If the state has any debt outstanding that should be paid off 1st. The remainder should be returned to the tax payers.

  2. Dave Avatar

    I agree that paying down debt is prudent, though the rest of it should be held for more ‘rainy day’ fund because, let’s face it, globalists know how to make it rain…

  3. Chuck Avatar

    Evers is a typical Democrat. If you have a surplus of revenue, spend it as quickly as possible whether it makes sense or not. Never mind that you robbed the taxpayer to get that surplus in the first place.

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