Wednesday, September 13, 2017

WisGOP budget another exercise gimmicks and can-kicking

As the Assembly votes on the 2017-19 budget today, it’s noteworthy to look at the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s update on what the Joint Finance-approved budget looked like.

First of all, the state’s General Fund is project to spend more than it takes in for each of the 2 years of this budget. Only a sizable carryover (mostly due to lower Medicaid enrollments) allows this to happen.

Projected cash balance, General Fund
2017-18 Start +$467.1 million
2017-18 End +$443.5 million (-$23.6 million)
2018-19 End +$196.9 million (-$246.6 million)

That $246.6 million deficit for 2018-19 is $35 million more than what the LFB estimated in March, when it was included as part of the $1 billion General Fund structural deficit for 2019-21. On a related note, the LFB released its updated projections for that 2019-21 structural deficit using the budget that passed out of Joint Finance.

The main differences between the two is that the JFC-approved budget is projected to carry over $109 million more into 2019 than Walker’s original budget did, but it “makes up” for nearly half of that difference by having larger shortfalls over each of the next 2 years.

So no real improvement there, and with the GOP Legislature deciding to cut the taxes of the rich and corporate while eliminating proposed increases in the EITC for the working poor while trying to eliminate prevailing wage on state construction projects, the JFC budget is even worse for most Wisconsinites.

A similar story holds for the deficit-ridden Transportation Fund. Not only was highway spending cut from Walker’s already-reduced amounts, but we still end up spending more money than we’re taking in to the Transportation Fund – much more if you include borrowing.

Projected cash balance, Transportation Fund
2017-18 Start +$145.4 million
2017-18 End +$78.1 million (-$67.3 million)
2018-19 End +$14.7 million (-$63.4 million)

Plus borrowing $402.4 million

That’s $533 million AFTER the cuts that were made in this budget (enjoy the slowed-down work on the Zoo Interchange, suburbanites!). And the needs for fixing roads will be larger in the next budget (since we cut spending on highway projects in this one), so you can bet that will be another $1 billion+ deficit we have to deal with in 2019.

So put the two funds together, and we are more than $800 million above expenses between now and 2019, with a gap of $2 billion or so to close. That’s not even taking into account any possible cuts from the Trump/Ryan clown show in DC that would require the state to take up more of the costs just to keep things as they are in the current budget.

And the AssGOPs had the nerve to complain about the Dems putting out multi-part amendments for the budget today? Sure, many of them weren’t going to be considered (because GOPs would rather the state fall to pieces vs giving Democrats any kind of say), but because WisGOP isn’t serious about dealing with the state’s real problems of a stagnant economy and an increasingly messed-up budget, why shouldn't the Dems resort to cheap "gotcha" moves? There are a lot of fiscal and policy issues in this budget that have not come close to being dealt with by the GOP, which means an even bigger mess will have to be cleaned up by whoever takes over after the 2018 elections.

We deserve so much more than this crap. But gimmicks and can-kicking haven't hurt the amoral slime and dimwits that make up today's Wisconsin GOP for 6 years, so they won't change until they get booted. Which is why the electeds must be changed.


  1. They're on borrowed time, and I think at least some know it. The markets are overvalued, the prosperity cycle is stale at best, and the DC children are hurting whole industries by not dealing seriously with immigration. Trump's jobs and trade rhetoric is simply (and not surprisingly) not getting backed up with action.

    But I don't see anything really changing until people feel it in their wallets. Republicans managed to jump in front of the parade back in 2010, and we're likely stuck with them until the Trump Bump peters out.

    If there's a shot, I think it's in a "good government" sort of platform. Make it easier to vote, increase audit checks and security on elections, more sunshine on the budget process, scrub WEDC, improve the elections/ethics watchdog situation, create a better path on redistricting.

    I'd like to include something on education. The UW is a jewel in our state's crown - one of the real forces for sustained advancement in Wisconsin - and WisDems have done almost nothing to combat the crusade that's been carried out against it. Upstream from them, have we crapped on public school teachers enough in the last 6+ years? Can we start talking about making things better in the K-12 world with something other than privatization?

    I just don't know if our voting public is ready for that part of the argument.

    1. I think they are, but it requires fierce, shorter blurbs. "Incest in OUR communities" is a good shorthand.

      With 8,800 jobs lost in August, maybe WISGOP knows they have nothing left to get Wisconsin's econony going, so they are going for one last big cash grab with Foxconn and vouchers.

      I just wish it didn't take the economy to fall apart again for the rubes to get it and see that trickle-down and wage suppression FAILS.

    2. "Working people - the problem is not that YOU make too much money."

      "Wisconsin: Open for Business, but don't drink the water."

      "Wisconsin water - it's why we make beer."

      "Unions need to stop trying to buy politicians and start buying businesses."

      "If they won't let you make money as a worker, it's time to be an owner."

      "UW - 15 billion dollar annual impact"

      "Voter power"

      "Stop borrowing and delaying. Wisconsinites pay their bills!"

  2. WisGOP 'law' says you have to create a budget deficit so you can get elected to 'fix' it in the next term. Problem is people's attention spans are too short to notice what's really happening...

  3. The vast majority of Badgers have no clue. What do we do about that?

    1. A vision needs to be articulated - something to oppose the GOP's point of view. Say what you will about them, they have a point of view, and they stick to it. Low taxes, low regulation, free market, government is the problem.

      If Dems really want to compete, they have to articulate and defend the sort of "good government" vision that actually seems to define them while pointing out the shortcomings in the presently dominant ideology.

      Then we need a plan - clear, concise, convincing and doable.

      And, of course, what seems to be the hard part for Democrats, we need to come up with the messaging.

      I think the candidates are out there - Kathleen Vinehout, Jennifer Schilling, Dana Wachs at least isn't shy about backing the UW. We just haven't done the hard intellectual and communications work that would give them the ammunition to go out and fight for what we believe in.

      The current RP is the product of 50 years or more of thought and messaging going to to Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman and William F. Buckley. The Heritage Foundation and Focus on the Family go back 40 years. I see nothing like this level of organization among liberals.

      We spend a lot of energy telling each other how wrong the other guys are, and not nearly enough building and defending our own positions.

    2. Far too many rich liberals think that simply appealing to reason is enough. Righties are much more ruthless and willing to play on emotions over facts. The average person simply doesn't have time or energy to think deeply on a lot of things.

      But with the future of our state's democracy and economy in serious risk, you'd think Dems would fight back in a state of total war. The other side is, and it's the biggest reason they're winning when most people don't back their policies.

    3. Yup.

      The have done an exceptional job of creating boogeymen. Nixon's beginning the drug war as a way to marginalize hippies and Black people, Reagan's Evil Empire, welfare queens and government as the problem not the solution, GHWB's Willie Horton, Newt's reprise homage to Reagan's welfare queens and a subsequent parade of villains: gay people, trans people, unions, immigrants, government employees, government itself, the Axis of Evil, Socialists, Communists, the French (remember Freedom Fries?), Mooooslums, Radical Islamic Terrorists, gangs, the Dixie Chicks, universities, scientists, journalists, artists, singers. And of course the worst of all *spits on the ground* liberals.

      I truly believe their ability to work, think and communicate in the sort kernel of truth arguments and dog whistle phrasing they so frequently use to isolate and demonize these enemies comes from a strong definition of self. Republicans (think) they know who they are, so it's very easy and effective for leadership point out and separate "the others" - cause you know Freedom.

      That strong definition is the product of decades of thought, development and messaging that Democrats simply haven't done. They've been out there selling themselves while we've been sitting around patting each other on the backs over how smart and right we are.