Also Monday the Fiscal Bureau, the Legislature's budget office, released one estimate of how healthy the state's finances would be in two years if Walker's 2015-'17 budget is approved as it is written.Well sure, Jason Stein, there's a structural surplus for the next budget based on current law. But if you spend more than a minute reading the actual LFB document, and it assumes a whole lot of things that lead to that number- items that would be unlikely to actually be passed into law, which artificially makes the balance better look than it really is.
The Fiscal Bureau estimated that the governor's proposal would leave the state with a potential $500 million surplus in the 2017-'19 budget — a sharp improvement from the shortfall Walker and GOP legislators faced this year.
1. The biggest assumption is that $700 million in lapses are built into in each year of the 2017-19 budget, or $1.4 BILLION overall. The 2015-16 budget only assumes $295 million in lapses, a little less than 2%, which is a more typical amount to build into a budget. If we assume $295 million in lapses in each year of the 2017-19 budget, that turns the structural balances in those two years to the following.
2017-18 budget -$121 million
2018-19 budget -$138 million
TOTAL DEFICIT $259 million
2. But there's another item that won't stick around, and that's a projected $142 million cut in K-12 school aids for each year of the 2017-19 budget. This would reduce aid levels back to the $150-per-student cut that districts are facing for the next school year, a move that has opened up massive deficits all over the state. You can click right here to see the budget holes that exist in your school district, and compare it to all the other holes that exist around the rest of the state. Do you really believe the WisGOPs in the Legislature want to go through all of those complaints again (if they're even in charge in 2 years, which is getting less likely by the day)? Riiiiight.
I'll be generous, not even count for 2 years of inflation, and assume K-12 school funding is kept flat at the 2016-17 Walker budget levels. Add that to the lower lapses mentioned above, and this turns the budget balance into the following.
2017-18 budget -$263 million
2018-19 budget -$280 million
TOTAL DEFICIT $543 million
3. We're not even talking about the Transportation Fund, which has huge amounts of borrowing in this budget leading to added debt service and high ongoing costs for projects if those are approved of in this budget. With no planned increase in gas tax revenues or other sources (the structural deficit document doesn't plan for an added increase in the transfer from the General Fund to the Transportation Fund), where are these added costs going to be paid from? So add those hundreds of million in Transportation Fund deficits to the half a billion in deficits I've already been figured in.
Oh, and this assumes that the revenue numbers hold up in the General Fund over the next 3 1/2 months, and that past cuts to the UW System and local governments remain. As I mentioned last week, don't expect those figures to stand, either on the revenue and spending sides.
So when you hear the Walker and WisGOP honks claim this one report means they have a "balanced budget and future surplus" (and they will...at least until the revenue numbers implode in the next 2 months), realize how much they have to stretch to get to those numbers and destroy public services in the process. Which underscores why it will never happen- because Walker is at 43% approval and plummeting since this budget and related "Walker 2016" agenda was announced 6 weeks ago. SO while the Fiscal Bureau and the Journal-Sentinel may have said today the Walker budget adds up on paper, most Wisconsinites know that it doesn't work in the real world.