Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Trump/Ryan Medicaid cuts would destroy Wisconsin budget

There are two huge releases in DC relating to health care policy and spending. The first will be the Congressional Budget Office's release of the updated Trump-Ryancare bill, which was blasted through the House of Representatives without an analysis of how many people would lose health care under the amended bill, or even an indication of what it would do to the US budget. In fact, there is a real possibility that the CBO score will show that so many people will take subsidies for crap insurance under the new bill that it would add to the deficit, which may require Paul Ryan to take the bill back and not officially send it over to the Senate.

Another big story is today's release of the austerity-driven Trump budget for the Fiscal Year that begins on October 1. This features massive cuts to domestic programs, with some of the largest declines coming in Medicaid.
The Trump administration's 2018 budget proposal released Tuesday included massive cuts to Medicaid, the government-run health program that provides insurance primarily to pregnant women, single parents, people with disabilities, and seniors with low incomes.

The plan calls for cuts amounting to $627 billion over the next 10 years.

That number does not include the roughly $880 billion in proposed cuts to the program through the American Health Care Act, the GOP leadership's plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, which the administration supports.

The plan has already received near-universal pushback in Congress, as even members of President Donald Trump's own party expressed skepticism over its provisions. The drastic cuts to Medicaid, among other programs, have drawn blowback from lawmakers in districts whose constituents would stand to be affected by the slashes.
Interestingly, the Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee is scheduled to discuss the Medicaid budget in their meeting on Thursday. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau says that lower-than-expected enrollments and costs for Medicaid will give over $95 million in breathing room for Governor Walker's 2017-19 budget, but that cushion may be put at major risk if Trump-Ryancare or the proposed Trump budget ever becomes law.
Another significant risk is potential changes in federal policy as it relates to Medicaid or broader healthcare policy. A potential decision to not renew CHIP allocations was already mentioned, but other changes to federal policy could also affect the state's MA spending. Discussions in Congress on the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act are ongoing. The elimination of or reduction to income-based premium tax credits for the purchase of health insurance could reduce opportunities to obtain coverage for households near the poverty line, which may push some, who would otherwise purchase commercial insurance with these subsidies, to seek or retain MA coverage.
And today, Wisconsin's Survival Coalition sent a letter to Wisconsin's Joint Finance Committee, laying out the major problems the state might face in funding Medicaid if Trumpcare becomes law.
As you are aware, the federal government currently funds about 60% of Wisconsin’s Medicaid costs, bringing roughly $5 billion to Wisconsin. These federal matching funds are the largest funding source for Wisconsin’s Medicaid programs and help to ensure that state GPR can be used for other essential purposes.

In March the Congressional Budget Office projected impacts on states that would be forced to operate undera per capita cap or block grant: “With less federal reimbursement for Medicaid, states would need to decide whether to commit more of their own resources to finance the program at current-law levels or whether to reduce spending by cutting payments to health care providers and health plans, eliminating optional services, restricting eligibility for enrollment, or (to the extent feasible) arriving at more efficient methods for delivering services.”

Our analysis of the proposed cuts shows it will be difficult for Wisconsin to meet current and future enrollment needs in a block grant or per capita cap scenario. Wisconsin has already achieved significant cost savings compared to other states, specifically related to long-term care populations which are among the most expensive to serve. The clear majority of long-term care participants are enrolled in managed care while other states are just now making the switch from fee-for-service to managed care. This shift alone has already resulted in savings of approximately $300 million per year compared to the legacy waiver programs it replaced.

Rough estimates provided by the Urban Institute project a $1 billion loss in Medicaid funds for Wisconsin under the AHCA.
And that $1 billion would have to be made up with a sizable increase in state spending using money that we don't have available in the state budget. The other option is having tens of thousands of Wisconsinites cut off of medical assistance and losing stability, with our economy suffering from the inevitable trade-offs that would result.

It makes me wonder if the Joint Finance Committee might want to take a step back on the Medicaid budget for a bit, to get an idea about how much federal funding they can count on (or not count on). At the very least, perhaps some additional money should be set aside as a hedge against Congressional action, even if that makes other Wisconsin budget initiatives impossible. Because if that doesn't happen, and if some kind of GOP health care bill ever goes through that cuts Medicaid funding from DC, then the state ends up at significant risk of having to have a repair bill to fill in the massive holes in the health services budget that would result.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Not just the UW budget- financial aid and UW salaries are also underfunded

There are a number of items at tomorrow's Joint Finance Committee that deal with financial aid for higher education, UW tuition for the next 2 years, and potential UW pay raises. I wanted to rapid fire them, and explain the price tags involved, because all 3 items are going to require more money than Governor Walker set aside in the 2017-19 budget.

First of all, in order to fully fund Governor Walker's plans to expand veterans remission to children and the spouses of deceased or disabled Veterans. This will allow UW students to claim remissions as long as those people have lived in the state for at least 5 straight years (not necessarily a “resident” when that person entered the service, but the problem is that the funding is insufficient in the budget bill, and so $6.47 million is needed the full pay for the remissions for children and spouses of deceased or disabled Veterans, ).

Side note, the amount budgeted for remissions hasn’t been changed since 2009, just under $6.5 million a year.

Second, Turns out that Gov Walker's proposed 5% cut of tuition is more costly than what Scotty anticipated.
2.The Governor's budget would provide $35 million GPR in 2018-19 to fund the proposed tuition reduction. Based on data provided by the UW System, it is estimated that a 1% reduction in resident undergraduate tuition could result in a decrease in tuition revenues of $8.4 million. Based on this estimate, a 5% reduction in resident undergraduate tuition in 2018-19 could reduce UW System tuition revenues by $42 million in that year.

3. If the Committee approves the reduction in resident undergraduate tuition and wishes to fully fund that reduction, the Committee could increase the GPR funding provided to the UW System in 2018-19 by $7.5 million. Alternatively, the Committee could reduce the amount by which resident undergraduate tuition would be decreased such that it would be fully funded by the $35 million provided in the bill. It is estimated that $35 million would offset the estimated decrease in tuition revenues resulting from a 4.2% reduction in resident undergraduate tuition.
Also, remember that Walker's self-insurance scheme was going to get so much savings that it would pay for much of a 2% increase for UW employees in 2018 and 2019. Now that the Joint Finance Committee has indicated they won't go along with self-insurance, there needs to be nearly $30 million added to the budget to make up the difference.
DOA has estimated that the GPR-funded fringe benefit costs for UW employees could increase by $9,979,500 in 2017-18 and $15,429,300 in 2018-19. In addition, the Governor has proposed providing 2% salary increases for all state employees, including UW System employees, on September 30, 2018, and May 26, 2019. It is estimated that the GPR portion of these salary increases for UW System employees would total $15,794,500 in 2018-19. The bill would specify that the Board of Regents could not request any funds from the state's compensation reserve during the 2017-19 biennium to fund compensation and fringe benefit costs. Instead, the bill would provide $126,500 GPR in 2017-18 and $11,517,900 GPR in 2018-19 through the UW System's GPR general program operations appropriation to fund these costs. These amounts are equal to the estimated cost of the GPR portion of salary and fringe benefit increases less the estimated GPR savings to the UW System of the state self-insuring for employee health benefits ($9,853,000 in 2017-18 and $19,705,900 in 2018-19).
Seems like a sensible trade to get rid of the $35 mil (under)budgeted for the 5% tuition decrease and pay for the proposed UW salary increases, doesn’t it? Let's see if that's carried out.

And lastly, state grants for financial aid are also underfunded. Walker wants a minor increase, but it’s not enough. The LFB says that increasing the Wisconsin Grants back to 2009 levels would be an increase of $2.76 million above the budget. And if the Joint Finance Committee turnsdown the 5% tuition decrease and then puts in the difference to Wisconsin Grants, that’s $9.72 million.

Keep an eye on a number of these items tomorrow, in addition to the regular UW budget. Looks like we need to find some place for extra money, or we will see more students left out.

Why improve the state when you can save $26, right Scotty?

It’s obvious that Governor Walker is in full-on campaign mode with his latest PR assault- trying to portray himself as a tax-cutting champion that’s made Wisconsin better off (your reality may vary). This culminated in another Twitter meltdown that included Walker threatening to throw the whole state budget out the window.
Gov. Scott Walker, in another sign of escalating tension with fellow Republicans who control the Legislature, vowed Monday to take the unprecedented step of vetoing the entire $76 billion state budget if it raises property taxes on homeowners.

Walker issued the unusual warning publicly on Twitter in one of a series of messages defending his budget priorities. Republicans are considering breaking with Walker in several key areas on the budget, including property taxes, as they continue to debate changes to his two-year spending plan.
Of course, Walker's act has little to do with good governance and everything to do with Walker posing for voters ahead of his inevitable 2018 campaign for re-election (along with trying to stay in the good graces of DC lobbyist Grover Norquist). While Walker's claim that he's reduced property taxes on the typical homeowner is generally true, as the LFB says the property tax bill on the average Wisconsin home would drop from $2,943 in 2013 to $2,831 in 2019 under Walker’s proposed budget (again, your reality may vary), that has come at a great price to Wisconsinites and has hamstrung the state budget.

Much of that reduction in property taxes is the result of Act 10 benefit cuts that took thousands of dollars out of the pockets of many Wisconsin workers (and has not been made up over time), or is because of gimmicks like a $406 million increase in aid to the state’s Technical Colleges which has never been offset with taxes to pay for it, nor has the money been allowed to be used in the classroom. And Scotty's latest pre-election year stunt to lower property taxes is to remove the state portion of the property tax, which is goes directly to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to fund Forestry operations. Instead, Walker wants to use general tax dollars to pay for that, which has a price tag of just over $180 million in this budget.
The Governor recommends repealing the state-levied portion of the property tax beginning with the 2017-18 property tax year. The Governor also recommends creating a GPR sum sufficient appropriation equal to 0.1697 mills multiplied by the total state equalized value that will be transferred to the forestry account in the conservation fund. The amount of this appropriation is projected to be $88,759,300 in FY18 and $91,695,600 in FY19.
The idea of replacing property taxes with General Fund money might seem OK on the surface as a structural change, but many people who care about the state’s environment see the problems that will happen in the future from getting rid of a dedicated funding source for conservation services.
"This would mean that forestry would have to line up with schools and with transportation and with health care and all the other important needs that are funded with general revenue," said (former State Rep.) Fred Clark, executive director of the Forest Stewards Guild.

The programs are fully funded in the 2017-19 proposal from the governor, but Clark expressed concern they could be cut in future budgets.

"There's no guarantee that the level of funding that's provided today would be sustained," Clark said.
Given the $1 billion shortfall we are already looking at in 2019-21 if this proposed budget goes through, I think Fred has a point. It doesn’t take much imagination to think that this new money that’s supposed to go to Forestry would be one of the first targets to cut to fill in a future Walker-caused budget hole.

In addition to the conservation angle, why would any responsible legislator choose a $26 property tax cut gimmick over $180 million that could be used to reduce that future deficit, and/or fix the pothole-covered roads in Fitzwalkerstan without borrowing ourselves into oblivion? Yes, this is a tight budget, but a big reason it is such a mess is because Walker designed it as a Christmas tree filled with pre-election talking points.

And it goes to a bigger theme. In WalkerWorld, there’s no concept of caring about what happens to Wisconsin after 2018, because Scotty’s onto the next grift after that anyway (especially if we’re looking at a different GOP president by then). He just thinks the average Wisconsin voter is so shallow that all he/she cares about is paying $1 a week less on their taxes and the ability to knock down “others” that they resent, instead of demanding better wages, a higher quality of life and a state that people want to live in for the rest of their lives.

Sadly, Scotty's been able to get 52-53% of voters to fall for it in past elections, but after a certain point, the jig is up and the bills need to be paid. This property tax gimmick should be shot down and the $180 million used for a better purpose- whether that’s savings from current and future budget cuts, or better investments like roads, schools and maintaining local services.

Yet again, the wisdom of Marge Gunderson comes through.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Numbers showing that WisGOP gerrymander getting worse over time

Bruce Thompson's Data Wonk column in Urban Milwaukee is back with another excellent analysis, this time about the Wisconsin GOP's gerrymandering of the State Assembly. To review, this gerrymander was ruled to be illegally one-sided by an Appeals Court in November, and that court came back in January and ordered the maps to be redrawn.

GOP hack/Attorney General Brad Schimel has appealed the case to the US Supreme Court to try to maintain the GOP's electoral advantage, but unless SCOTUS rules in the GOP's favor and overturns the Appeals Court, the State Legislature will need to draw new maps and have them in place in November 2017. One of the arguments that WisGOPs and Bradley Foundation front groups have argued is that Wisconsin has a unique electoral population where Democrats are heavily concentrated into urban areas, and so there will be a "natural gerrymander" that favors Republicans no matter how you draw the maps.

What Thompson points out in the article is that any "Big Sort" that may cluster Democrats together doesn't explain the distortion of Wisconsin's results, where a near-even split of votes for the Legislature has resulted in Republicans having overwhelming majorities in the State Assembly throughout the 2010s. A central argument behind the case that got WisGOP's gerrymander overrules was the usage of statistic called the "efficiency gap", where it was calculated how far away the results of the State Assembly's elections differed from what a fair map would have given.

Thompson includes the following graphic to show just badly this was skewed in 2016, where Donald Trump only got 47% of the state's presidential votes, but Republicans won 64 or the 99 Assembly races. In fact, Thompson notes that an already-bad gerrymander in 2012 has gotten increasingly worse as the decade has gone on.

Now compare that figure to 2008's outcome, which were under maps drawn by a federal court. In this instance, a 50-50 split would give the Republicans an advantage in about 52 Assembly seats, not 64.

Thompson also brings up the work of University of Michigan political scientist Jowei Chen, who did 200 computer simulations drawing up Wisconsin's 99 Assembly districts, and overlayed it with Wisconsin's 2012 vote. What he found was that the GOP's gerrymander created an efficiency gap well beyond anything that could be explained by "The Big Sort." In his analysis, a - number indicates districting that favors Republicans, and a + indicates districting that favors Democrats.
Figure 3 reveals that the simulated districting plans are reasonably neutral with respect to electoral bias. About 72% of the simulated plans exhibit an efficiency gap within 3% of zero, indicating de minimis electoral bias in favor of either party. In fact, 23% of the simulations produce an efficiency gap between -1.0% and +1.0%. These patterns illustrate that a non-partisan districting process following traditional criteria very commonly produces a neutral Assembly plan in Wisconsin with minimal electoral bias.

It is important to note that the simulations produce plans with both positive and negative efficiency gaps. Although the efficiency gap of every simulated plan is relatively small in magnitude, 90% of plans exhibit a negative efficiency gap, indicating slightly more wasted Democratic votes than wasted Republican votes. But 10% of the plans exhibit a positive efficiency gap, reflecting more wasted Republican votes. Hence, it is not extraordinary for Wisconsin’s political geography, combined with traditional redistricting criteria, to naturally produce a districting plan that somewhat favors Republicans.

The blue star in the lower left corner of Figure 3 represents the Assembly plan enacted by Act 43. (I can't figure out how to link the picture fromm the PDF, sorry.) This blue star depicts the enacted plan’s efficiency gap of -15.1%, reflecting significantly more wasted Democratic votes than wasted Republican votes. Thus, the level of electoral bias in the Act 43 Assembly plan is not only entirely outside of the range produced by the simulated plans, the enacted plan’s efficiency gap is well over twice as biased as the most biased of the two-hundred simulated plans. The improbable nature of the Act 43 efficiency gap allows us to conclude with high statistical certainty that neutral, non-partisan districting criteria, combined with Wisconsin’s natural political geography, would not have produced a districting plan as electorally skewed as the Act 43 Assembly plan.
One of the ways Chen notes that GOPs pulled as part of their extreme gerrymander was to split up counties that didn't have to be split up. Only 14 counties are kept together in one district under the current WisGOP maps, while Chen's computer simulations kept between 18 and 25 counties intact, which could make for more uniform interests in a district and likely less skewed outcomes.

Given the unpopularity of Republicans in DC along with a lagging economy in Wisconsin, it seems possible a Dem wave will hit in 2018. And if so, no wonder why Republicans in Wisconsin want to keep their rigged maps to give themselves as much of a cushion against such a wave, and get a free pass on backing legislation that a majority of Wisconsinites disapprove of. What Chen's and Thompson's work shows is that the lengths that WisGOP have gone to protect themselves from the will of the people is obscene, and should be ruled illegal based on the numbers.

Just because WisGOPs have rigged the maps, it doesn't mean that Wisconsin Dems don't have a lot of problems of their own to fix, as evidenced by the large amount of rural counties that flipped from Barack Obama to Donald Trump in 2016. But banning the gerrymander might be an important first step that would alert the average Wisconsin voter to how badly WisGOPs have acted, and lead them to understand a big reason why their elected officials seem to be doing things in Madison that the voters back home didn't ask for.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Chris Cornell, RIP. More brilliance that's gone away

The suicide of singer Chris Cornell hit me pretty hard when I found out about it on Thursday morning. Cornell is near the top of my list as a rock singer, and could be as soulful or screaming as the song required. Soundgarden was a band from the '90s who stands up over the years, and if anything is underrated for that era (or any era).

Don't believe me, check out one of my favorites of Cornell and Soundgarden, from 1991. A song that perfectly describes the whiny victim complex of the GOP, both back then, and even more so today. Plus, it's one of the best 2 minute intros for a song EVER. (video could be a bit disturbing to some of you. Oh well).

I'd also love to be "driving the nails" into the wood on some of these Jesus Christ Posers.

Cornell was a giant, and this is another hit to us Gen Xers where giants of our musical upbringing keep being taken from us. Kurt, Layne, Weiland, now Cornell. Too much self-destruction, and too much brilliance being taken away from the stage.

And if you're not familiar with the soulful, sensitive side of Cornell, watch how he took a Prince song last year and gave it new life after the Purple One went away.

UW budgets cuts from state and feds = more "help" from Kochs and Bradleys

On Tuesday, the Joint Finance Committee will discuss the 2017-19 budget for the University of Wisconsin System. While it doesn’t include massive cuts in state funding like the 2011-13 and 2015-17 budgets did, there still are some troubling trends that emerge when you dig into the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s analysis.

Some of this involves the reliance of any state funding increases for the UW to rely on certain performance measures that could change the focus of how the UW delivers its education services. But I'm going to focus on another place in the UW budget, where the LFB discovered an error in Governor Walker’s budget that gives a clearer idea what the real, underlying numbers are.

Basically, the error involves mis-budgeting what the UW gets and spends from a variety of outside sources. This can include things such as tuition payments, self-sustaining operations like dorms and food services, and federal grants and aids. And the LFB says that it is time to clean up the numbers and make them more accurately reflect what the UW actually has and has been spending.

9. In addition to the PR general program operations appropriation, the UW System has eight other all-moneys-received appropriations. The UW System may spend any and all funds deposited in these appropriations and the amounts shown in the appropriation schedule for these appropriations do not affect the UW System's ability to spend these funds. However, to the extent that the amounts shown in the appropriation schedule are used as a measure of state spending in various areas, it may be beneficial to include reasonable estimates for these appropriations in the schedule….

11. … the expenditure estimates proposed under the Governor's budget are significantly different than actual 2015-16 expenditures for a number of these appropriations. As an alternative, the Committee could reestimate expenditures for these appropriations based on actual 2015-16 expenditures. This would result in an increase in estimated PR expenditures of $52,159,800 annually, a decrease in estimated federal revenue expenditures of $149,232,700 annually, and a decrease in estimated segregated revenue expenditures of $4,221,800 annually. (This assumes that the VDL appropriation for moneys received from other state agencies, which has had negative expenditures on the two most recent years, would be reestimated at $0.) It should be noted that the UW System would continue to have the authority to expend all funds received through these appropriations under both this alternative and the Governor's proposed budget.
In addition, tuition revenues are slated to be $7.1 million less than what Walker assumes, even before we discuss the proposed 5% in-state tuition cut and $35 million backfill that JFC is unlikely to approve of. So if the figures are accepted by the Joint Finance Commission, combined with lower-than-budgeted tuition revenues, means that the total UW budget could show nearly $210 million less in spending than what Walker originally proposed in those areas.

In theory, that could mean there is a $210 million shortfall at the UW System under the Governor’s proposal, if the UW planned to spend all of those funds that the Governor had in his budget. But more likely it means that the Governor overestimated expenses that never happened in the first place, and all this will do is reduce the number of a dishonest Walker/WisGOP talking point of “the UW spends $6 billion +, so it’s fine if the state supports it less.”

But even if it's not necessarily a budget cut, we should still be more than a bit worried at this trend.

Federal aid expenditures at UW System
2013-14 $1.697 billion
2014-15 $1.682 billion
2015-16 $1.668 billion

That’s a drop of $29 million on top of the Walker/WisGOP cut of $250 million in General Fund tax dollars in the 2015-17 budget. And given the anti-science, anti-intellectual group in the White House and in the GOP Congress, along with an anti-UW attitude that is causing researchers to leave and take better offers at other schools (and taking their federal grants with them) we should be concerned that this may drop further. So there’s declining support from two big areas of the UW’s funding.

Add in the in-state tuition freeze over the same time period, and there’s little help there either. So one of the few ways the UW System has stayed somewhat afloat in recent years is due to increasing help out of the private sector and other resources.

Gifts, non-federal grants + contracts, UW
2013-14 $517.3 million
2014-15 $541.5 million
2015-16 $575.4 million

But there’s a second side to that type of assistance, and it’s related to who is donating that funding and handing out the contracts. We’ve touched on this a couple of times, particularly when discussing the absurd, right-wing “research” promoted by UW-Madison’s Noah Williams, who is funded through the Juli Plant (“wife of the CEO of W.W.”) Grainger Institute for Economic Research, and in the Bradley Foundation’s sizable amount of “donations” to the UW.

Matt Rothschild of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign mentioned another player in the privatization of UW funding, both politicially, and in outside funding- the Charles Koch Foundation. In addition to their recent 4-year, $1.7 million grant to UW-Stout to “facilitate civil and rational debate and research in the state and beyond on important civil liberty issues guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution: freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and petitioning the government, and how these liberties relate to institutions and innovation in government, civic, business, social, scientific and religious settings,” Rothschild notes that the Kochs have also given over $311,000 to UW-Madison since 2007, and nearly $50,000 to other UW schools.

And don’t believe for a second that the Kochs and the Bradleys and other oligarchs are giving this money out of the goodness of their hearts with no strings attached. As the UW System gets defunded from other sources, it means the private oligarchs’ voices become more important, and they can slant curriculum and areas of research in directions that they prefer (or not have certain issues be researched, like climate change).

Let’s see if that’s part of the debate that arises in Tuesday’s JFC meeting on the UW System budget. Sure, there aren’t state aid cuts in it (yet), but these new expenditure figures that show the sources of funds indicates the increasing reliance on the private sector and big-money donors is a way to take the UW away from “sifting and winnowing” for society, and instead asking its paymasters “What would you like to see, boss?”

Which is exactly how the ALEC crew wants “education” to work.

Friday, May 19, 2017

April's Wisconsin income taxes fall again. Budget could be endangered

Late this afternoon, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue dumped their April revenue figures. I hadn't figured on this being very significant, given that the Legislative Fiscal Bureau had already given us a preview of the numbers with last week's estimates that said there would be no additional revenue in this budget.

But then I looked at the April revenue numbers, and they weren't as predictable as I thought. In particular, the fact that income taxes were DOWN 2.65% ($26.9 million) compared to April 2016. That's the second straight month that income taxes had a year-over-year decline after March's income taxes were down by 8.8%, which is especially bad given that March and April are two of the months that have the most tax returns, and they indicate more tax refunds than expected. It also should give you an extra level of skepticism for April's "booming" Wisconsin jobs numbers (and I already didn't trust them), as we should have seen higher income tax revenues if that was true.

Also concerning is that those tax returns aren't translating into higher consumption, as year-over-year sales taxes were only up 3.3% in March and 3.9% in April. Excise taxes are even worse- with losses of 10.6% in March, and 11.9% in April. The only thing that saved this April report, and what prevented the LFB from causing major turmoil with the state budget due to downward revenue revisions, is that corporate revenues had a major leap of nearly $40 million vs April 2016. This put corporate revenues back on track with LFB estimates after being down over 13% through March, which had it in line to fall short by $64 million.

In looking at where we stand at the end of April vs the LFB estimates, we are now pretty much in line with what LFB put out in January and stuck with in May, except for one area. Income taxes were projected to be up 3.99% year-over-year, and right now are only up 3.24%. That doesn't sound like a lot, but a 0.75% shortfall in income taxes would add up to $58 million overall. And in a General Fund budget that only has $12 million in breathing room and a $1 billion deficit in 2017-19, starting $58 million in the hole would likely require bigger adjustments over the next two years.

There are still two months left to report in the 2017 Fiscal Year, so there is still time to catch up....or fall further behind. With the bad weather this week, it sure seems like the upcoming Holiday Weekend and Summer hiring season is going to be a big factor in figuring out if we start Fiscal Year 2018 in decent shape, or if our house-of-cards budget already starts to tumble.