By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers and his lackeys have told some tall tales over the Democrat’s tenure in office, but their audacious victory lap on Wisconsin’s record state budget surplus is a doozy.
The state ended the 2021 fiscal year with a better-than-expected $2.58 billion budget surplus and a rainy day fund balance of $1.73 billion.
Team Evers immediately — and falsely — took credit for Wisconsin’s healthy fiscal picture.
“A healthy rainy-day fund will help us face tomorrow’s challenges head-on,” Department of Administration Secretary Joel Brennan said in a statement. “By prudently managing our way through this crisis we’ve built the largest Budget Stabilization Fund in state history, making sure we’re ready for future challenges, and securing a strong pandemic recovery for our hard-hit communities, businesses and industries.”
There really was no “we” involved in the budget success, and certainly no prudent management on the part of Evers and and his budget team. The liberal governor has proposed two massive tax-and-spend budgets that the Republican-led Legislature rebuilt from the ground up. Conservatives included healthy tax cuts and boxed Evers into a corner. He has signed two biennial budgets that nearly all legislative Democrats voted against.
Even with billions of dollars in tax cuts, including $2 billion in the current budget, state general fund tax collections in the past fiscal year climbed by 11.6 percent over the prior year, exceeding the most recent estimates by nearly $319 million.
“It’s laughable the idea the governor is trying to take credit for signing two conservative budgets,” said Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna). “We laid the groundwork for the surpluses that we have seen at the end of the day. His budget ideas included massive tax increases (over $1 billion in the current budget) that would strangle our economy.”
While Evers did sign off on moving $967 million into the Budget Stablization Fund, it was conservatives who pushed him. Republicans have spent the past decade rebuilding a depleted rainy day fund that was raided and nearly emptied by former Gov. Jim Doyle and fellow Democrats who at the time controlled the Legislature.
“The budgets that we passed and (Evers) eventually signed bear no resemblance to the budget he put out,” Steineke said. “I’m glad he’s starting to realize that conservative budgets end up in better economies and surpluses.”
“If he’s re-elected, he’ll just go back to the same ways” of taxing and spending.