Thursday, April 5, 2012

Apparently $26 million in free W-2 money > $800 million in free train money

Looks like Gov. Walker tried to sneak in a request for more W-2 funding, possibly as part of God's plans for his Administration (and don't get me started on that megalomaniac statement). Fortunately, all 4 Dem Senators on Joint Finance caught the request for nearly $34 million that has to be paid because the actual amount of W-2 cases is more than 20 percent above what the Walker Administration predicted. As the request explains:
The 2011-2013 biennial budget assumed an average monthly W-2 casg assistance casload [of] 12,775 based on average monthly caseload from January 2010 to March 2011. (editor's note: What happened in March 2011? Act 10 was passed.) However, the number of paid W-2 cases in the current fiscal year has remained well above that average. The actual paid caseload from July 2011 to February 2012 has averaged 15,575, or 2,800 above the biennial budget estiates. This has resulted in monthly beneffit expenditures exceeding the budget by $1.85 million per month.

While caseloads have declined slightly over the last several months, the rate of decline is not likely to get to the caseload levels projected in the biennial budget for several months. As a result, the Department estimates the need for a total of $34,035,300 to cover the W-2 benefit shortfall through the end of SFY13.

The fortunate part for Wisconsin taxpayers is that most of this new $34 million will come from the Feds, not the state, as the state will use nearly $26 million in federal TANF money that was not originally budgeted out of fears that it would be cut. But the TANF emergency funding has been restored due to Congressional Democrats and President Obama keeping the funds in the budget through continuing resolutions. The rest will come from previous moves that sent a little over $8 million from Child Care Services and Wisconsin Works to the W-2 program.

In addition to W-2 cases being well above the levels of 2010 and early 2011 being yet another example of Walker and the WisGOPs failing when it comes to Wisconsin's economy, this request also continues his administration's awful habit of fishy budgeting. Sometimes the deceptions involve overestimating Medicaid enrollments so the Walker boys can throw people off of Badger Care and into private insurance, and this time it was underestimating how many Wisconsinites would end up on welfare so spending and taxes could be underestimated.

It also offers an interesting contrast with another bit of "free" federal money that the Walker Administration could have taken, but in that case chose not to. This is the $800 million + that Walker turned down to build the new passenger rail line between Milwaukee, Madison, and the Twin Cities, and it's a mistake that has continued to multiply in cost and stupidity, with a promised Wisconsin train maintenance facility later being turned down by Joint Finance, and trains sitting vacant in the Menominee Valley. The next shoe on that disaster dropped this week, as train-maker Talgo announced they would lay off 35 well-paid unionized employees at their Milwaukee facility as their services would not be needed as much without the maintenance facility or new rail line. Guess that means more people to be added to the W-2 list to get covered by the other "free federal money," eh?

So to review, when the Obama Administration gives no-match-required money to cover the Walker Administration's stupid policies that cause 20 percent more people to end up on welfare, that kind of handout is OK. But when the Obama Administration offers much more money to build new infrastructure and create hundreds if not thousands of new jobs, that's an economic burden we can't stand. Maybe that makes sense in Walker World, but it sure seems like an inconsistent cock-up to me.

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