By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Shameless.
Gov. Tony Evers again was quick to take credit for rosy state budget projections that he’s had little to do with.
After word came in from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau that the state is on pace to finish the 2021-23 biennium (in June 2023) with a balance of $3.8 billion — nearly $2.9 billion better than expected — the governor took a bow.
“We’ve made smart decisions with tax dollars, folks are back at work, and we’ve kept more money in your pockets,” Evers tweeted.
Who is this We?
Again, it must be noted that Evers called for $1 billion-plus in tax hikes in his latest budget plan, which included massive government spending hikes. The legislature’s Republican-led Joint Finance Committee rejected the Democrat’s hefty tax-and-spending plan, rebuilding Evers’ budget from the ground up. Along the way, they used healthy surpluses to deliver billions of dollars in property and income tax relief.
Evers did go along for the ride. He had to. Failing to sign the Republican-crafted budget that most legislative Democrats rejected would have been political suicide.
“A decade of responsible budgeting and significant tax cuts by Republicans have produced extraordinary results,” said Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) and Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam), co-chairs of the state budget-writing committee.
The lawmakers note that the glowing projection is due to increased revenue of approximately $2.5 billion more in tax collections and less state spending than anticipated. Sales tax, personal income taxes and corporate tax collections have increased significantly. A flood of federal funding and stimulus money pouring into Wisconsin also helped bolster the budget picture.
Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville), noted the unprecedented windfall of one-time federal funds — roughly $58 billion — infused into the state economy over the past two years (including the stimulus checks and other federal funds). Evers has had control over about $5 billion of that federal COVID relief.
“Let us not forget the path Evers would have followed had he been provided with the same level of unilateral control over the state budget,” Stroebel said. “The tax-and-spend wish lists that have been presented to the Legislature over the past two budget cycles would have eviscerated virtually any possibility of a general fund surplus at the close of a biennium.”
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) are talking tax cuts.
“This is the best fiscal position our state has ever been in. However, much of this is the result of a one-time influx of federal money into our state,” LeMahieu said. “We will not be foolish with these tax dollars by spending them into the future. Rather, we will focus on further tax relief in the next budget to continue our state on a positive trajectory and ensure the long-term health of the state budget and, more importantly, family budgets.”