Friday, December 23, 2016

Just in time for Christmas- another budget Ho-Ho-Hole!

With it being Friday and the start of a holiday weekend looming, those of us who follow the news know to keep our eyes peeled for info to get dumped that those in power don't want to have people now about. And sure enough, Governor Walker's Administration sent out the November revenue figures for Wisconsin late this afternoon. And they did suck.

Wisconsin General Fund tax revenues, Nov 2016 vs. Nov 2015
Income taxes- DOWN 3.2%
Sales taxes- UP 1.1%
Corporate taxes- DOWN 216.7% (!)
Excise taxes UP 4.0%
Other taxes DOWN 0.6%

These are horrible numbers overall, and the corporate ones are shocking. Wisconsin actually paid more in corporate tax refunds that they collected from corporations in November. I understand that most corporations pay taxes quarterly, but there is still no excuse for the state to actually lose money in corporate taxes in any month. And it's not like those corporations were creating jobs, as the state lost 5,200 private sector jobs last month.

November's loss of tax revenue adds to the significant revenue shortfall we were projecting last month. Remember that the state needs revenues to grow 3.7% just to meet the Legislative Fiscal Bureau's already-reduced projections, and then Walker's Department of Administration came out last month and projected that our tax revenues would fall $215.5 million short of that.

Now add in this brutal report, and we're on track to lose fall even farther behind.

Wisconsin revenues, FY 2017 pace vs DOA projections
Income taxes DOWN $6.8 million
Sales taxes DOWN $54.8 million
Corporate taxes DOWN $137.1 million
Excise taxes UP $3.1 million
Other taxes EVEN

In addition, the DOA said last month that other General Fund revenues would fall short of LFB estimates by $28.5 million, which would make the total miss nearly $440 million for this fiscal year. Also, the DOA said the state had only $104.8 million of breathing room left in the budget, so the $195.6 million tax shortfall be a situation that would trigger a budget repair bill, or yet another skipping of a debt payment, which we've seen in each of the last 2 years.

If these revenues stay this short, it also puts the state even further behind the 8-ball for this upcoming budget, one where we are already $588 million short in General Fund, $880 million short in the Transportation Fund, and likely with millions in other needs that are going to have to be addressed (like paying for weather disasters, bailing out the broke Local Government Property Fund, and not being able to raid the Veterans Trust Fund).

You can bet the Walker folks are praying for a Christmas (shopping) miracle at this point, because that seems like the only way that we will see enough revenues in the near future that would prevent serious budget deficit from opening up when the LFB updates its revenue figures next month. And if that happens, it will prove all of Walker's sweater-wearing "we'll increase education funding" happy talk to be an even emptier pile of BS than it usually is.

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