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“Great Scott!”

February 14, 2012

Stephen F. Hayes has a great column about Governor Scott Walker and his budget reforms in the Weekly Standard this week. Here’s a quick excerpt:

Walker came to office in the Republican wave of 2010. He inherited a mess…

But I’ll betcha he won’t be making that excuse a year and a half from now, like some other executives we could name.

Under his profligate predecessor, Jim Doyle, state government had operated almost as a slush fund for public employee unions. Giveaways to teachers and others put the state on an unsustainable fiscal path, so Doyle raised some taxes and threatened to raise others. He raided a state fund set up to cover medical liability, essentially stealing contributions doctors had made to the pooled account. The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled against that pilfering, but the money had already been spent. Even after budget gimmickry that would make Fannie and Freddie blush, the official deficit was $3.6 billion.

Just over a year later, Walker and the Republicans in the state legislature have nearly eliminated the deficit. For the two-year budget cycle, the state will show a $143 million shortfall because the stagnant economy has resulted in lower tax receipts than had been projected. But the shortfall is for the first half of the cycle; Wisconsin will run a surplus in the current fiscal year. And Walker said last week that he will eliminate the remaining shortfall without raising taxes. It’s a credible claim. He reduced the deficit without raising taxes. In fact, one of his first moves upon being sworn in was to cut taxes on businesses. His subsequent reforms have allowed property tax receipts to go down for the first time in years—by some $47 million.

The recall vote Walker faces comes because of these results.

It’s important to note that Walker didn’t just (almost) balance the budget while bringing taxes down: he changed the structure of budgets in Wisconsin, so budgets – both state and local – will be easier to balance in the future.

It wasn’t so long ago that every state budget was basically a maxed out credit card, with the Legislature making like a frightened college student worrying about the next bill. Not anymore.

More at the link. Hat tip Charlie Sykes.

9 Comments
  1. February 14, 2012 8:54 pm

    “Wisconsin will run a surplus in the current fiscal year”

    Except that the Legislative Audit Bureau already poo-pooed that and Walker has admitted, in writing, that there is a deficit.

    And that was only one of the many factual errors contained in that small blurb.

    Your really need to be more careful about what you use in your citations. This one is just embarrassing for you.

  2. February 15, 2012 8:28 pm

    Wisconsin will run a surplus in the current fiscal year, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. Not the Audit Bureau – you should try to get those facts right when you’re accusing somebody else of having their facts wrong. That’s just embarrassing for you.

    I don’t know what Hayes means by “the shortfall is for the first half of the cycle.” That’s either a factual error or just a mistake – he must have meant second half of the cycle. That’s when the deficit occurs. The gross balance at the end of the current fiscal year will be over $11 million.

    That paper is available here, by the way.

    As for Hayes’ other “many factual errors,” as you put it: the state budget was on “an unsustainable fiscal path.” Everybody thought so, on both sides of the aisle. Gov. Doyle did raise “some taxes and threatened to raise others.” He did raid “a state fund set up to cover medical liability, essentially stealing contributions doctors had made to the pooled account,” too. The Wisconsin Supreme Court did rule against him. The official deficit was $3.6 billion. That deficit is “nearly eliminated.” And notice his use of the word “nearly” there. The state will “show a $143 million shortfall,” and the Fiscal Bureaus says it is “because the stagnant economy has resulted in lower tax receipts than had been projected.” Wisconsin will “run a surplus in the current fiscal year.” Walker did say “that he will eliminate the remaining shortfall without raising taxes.” And that is a credible statement. He did cut taxes on businesses. Property taxes are down statewide “for the first time in years.”

    Many factual errors?

  3. February 15, 2012 11:44 pm

    According to the GAAP accounting, the same one Walker used to bash Doyle, Walker actually increased the deficit.

    Yes, Doyle did all those things, as did Walker. Walker raised taxes and raised fees even higher. My property tax went up by 4.5% this year alone. And Walker raided the transportation fund so that he could reward the road builders who gave him so much money. And now Walker is trying to set up the pension fund for a grab, if he stays in office that long. So why is it bad for one and not the other?

    As for some property taxes going down, they almost always went along with a drop in property values. Will Walker take credit for the entire package? Did he help make everyone’s homes worth less?

    And it’s funny how y’all blame the lower tax receipts without looking at why they are lower. Of course, then one would have to understand how Walker took tens of millions of dollars out of the economy, which would also go a long way in explaining why WI is dead last in economic activity.

    Yes, many factual errors.

  4. February 16, 2012 7:29 pm

    So we’re done critiquing Hayes now?

    I agree with you about GAAP. I’m sure you’ll support Walker trying to pare the budget even more to meet it.

    Walker only “raised taxes” if you count reducing redistribution programs.

    Walker didn’t “raid” the transportation fund. He put money back into it that was raided in previous budgets.

    Your property taxes may have gone up, but many others’ went down. That was a statewide measure. An average. Some of that was due to property values, but much was due to local governments being able to keep their levy rates down thanks to Act 10.

    Walker is not – repeat not – “trying to set up the pension fund for a grab.” That is a lie, with no substance whatsoever behind it.

  5. February 19, 2012 3:11 pm

    Walker only “raised taxes” if you count reducing redistribution programs.

    So tax breaks only count if they’re for the rich?

    Walker didn’t “raid” the transportation fund. He put money back into it that was raided in previous budgets.

    Uh huh, and that’s why mass transit systems across the state are doing so well, because he did not take away their funding from the transportation fund and throw them to the wolves of the general budget, right?

    The property tax is directly related to property values a lot more than you’re willing to admit, just like you won’t accept that there is already language in the current budget setting up a raid on the pension fund.

    What will you claim next? That Walker didn’t know about the illegal campaigning even though he sent an email via his campaign address to Tim Russell who was no longer in the executive suite?

  6. February 19, 2012 6:27 pm

    Wow, capper. You make statements, I challenge them, so you change the subject. Then I challenge you again, and you change the subject again. The real surprise, I guess, is that I’m surprised.

  7. February 19, 2012 6:35 pm

    No, you make false statements and I correct them. Then you try to change the subject by accusing me of things that haven’t even happened. I believe that they teach that in “How to be a Republican 101.” Are you teaching that course now?

  8. February 19, 2012 8:33 pm

    You haven’t even addressed any of my statements, much less “corrected” any of them.

  9. February 19, 2012 8:35 pm

    LOL! Keep trying. I’m sure the Kool-Aid drinkers believe you.

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