UW System officials are wisely waiting to see what is going to in Walker's budget proposal, which will be released next month.
"We are being cautious about commenting any further on the governor’s announcement to cut tuition until we know more details about his proposal and additional reaction by the Legislature,” System spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis said. “Until then, we will continue to aggressively pursue our common goals of college affordability and workforce development.”Yeah, join the club Todd. Sure, some of these proposals can be explained by shuffling around existing funds (like the broadband expansion), but some of these other initiatives are relying on money falling from the sky and/or a helluva lot of borrowing, and I want to see how this all fits together.
The promise to backfill a tuition cut is the latest commitment to increase spending that has left some budget watchers wondering how Walker will balance the budget without resorting to the types of accounting gimmicks he criticized his predecessor for using.
He has also promised a “significant” though unspecified increase in general K-12 aid, more money for rural schools, nearly $70 million more for road maintenance and repairs, $65 million more for local road aid, $35.5 million more for broadband expansion and $10 million for a sales tax holiday.
“I find it difficult to understand how all these various promises can be fulfilled, unless you do them in very small, symbolic ways,” Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance president Todd Berry said.
The other reason many budget watchers are skeptical of Walker's ability to pay for these promises is because the revenue picture looks gloomy at best. State Rep. and Joint Finance Committee member Gordon Hintz reiterated that today with a press release explaining the bad revenue numbers, and how a shortfall would stymie Wisconsin in Fiscal Year 2017, as well as the next budget.
Last January’s LFB revenue estimate predicted state revenue growth for fiscal year (FY) 2017 at 3.7%. The Governor’s Department of Administration abruptly lowered that expectation for the year ending June 30, 2016 to 2.3% in November. However, the most recent report from the DOR shows that collections for FY 2017 have been an anemic 1.2% so far. To put this number in perspective, a 1% drop in revenue will equal a $157 million hit to the Governor’s budget. If the current 1.2% tax revenue growth rate doesn’t change, the small $104 million projected budget balance carried over will be wiped out and a budget repair bill could be required to balance revenues and expenditures for the current budget year.Yeah, pretty much. In fact, I am counting on those revenues not being there, but Walker coming up with some rosy scenarios, borrowing and magic asterisks to claim the money is there, and then leaving it to the State Legislature to make the real choices and try to have the numbers add up. It's pathetic and the mark of someone in over his head, but it's also par for the course for Gov Dropout.
It is important to note that the recently reduced $104 million fund balance projection was only made possible by the Governor’s decision last May to defer payment of $101 million in debt into future budgets, instead of making the debt payment when it came due. After passing expensive, regressive tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefit the rich, the Governor has had to skip debt payments for the last two years just to keep his budget in the black. In other words, Governor Walker and Republicans have had to borrow money to pay for tax cuts each of the past two years to keep the budget in the black.
“Our state’s current budget problems are self-inflicted by a Governor who has prioritized untargeted and regressive tax cuts for the rich, at the expense of programs that increase opportunity for all Wisconsinites,” said Rep. Hintz, “His latest promises to provide increased funding for our public schools and universities suggest a delusional attempt to begin fixing the problems he created over the past six years. Short-sighted budget priorities and sluggish state economic growth have resulted in lower revenue to fund the program investments crucial to our state’s future. When he can’t cut programs anymore, he borrows taxpayer money to make up the difference. The Governor’s failure of leadership and poor decisions over the past six years have resulted in an economy where, once again, the revenues he needs to balance his budget may not be there.”