Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Here's more money slushing around

Hidden late today was this request from Scott Walker's DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch, which asks for a number of adjustments to the governor's budget, based on recent developments. Here are a few of the requests in this letter.
1. Fringe rate calculation
Due to a formula error in the agency fring rate calculation, agency prior service obligation rates need to be adjusted. An additional $6,046,200 GPR per year is required. This error can be partially offset by using an additional $6.2 million of Targeted Case Management funds identified by the Department of Health Services. The remainder can be offset by the next item.

2. Debt Service Reestimates
The debt service estimates included the bondng for the Stillwater Bridge GPR-supported debt service...., whereas it should be SEG-supported debt service (meaning the Transportation Fund).... GPR expenditures should be reduced by $625,000 GPR in fiscal year 2013-12 and by $5,262,100 GPR in fiscal year 2014-15. SEG expenditures should be increased in an equal amount respectively....
So wait, we're just going to shift millions of dollars from the General Fund to the Transportation Fund to pay for a bridge, and instead use that General Fund money to help pay for benefit costs that the DOA didn't account for? How is that not a "slush fund"? Also, we're borrowing hudreds of millions with the Transportation Fund budget as it is, and now we're adding almost another $6 million to it? Where's that coming from?

Oh, and here's another.
3. TANF Ending Balance
The Department of Children and Families has reestimated revenues and expenditures in the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program, resulting in a reestimated TANF ending balance of $8.2 million by the end of fiscal year 2014-15. The Governor recommends that approximately $4.4 million be used to expand transitional jobs to other high need urban areas in the state, potentially update the W-2 benefits estimate in light of additional caseload data and provide additional funding for child care rates.
In other words, the state now says it'll have an $8.2 million SURPLUS in TANF funds, and will use that money to pay for other underfunded parts of the state's DHS budget. Obviously the scope is smaller, but how is this different from the UW System carrying over its funds to cushion against unforeseen circumstances and then tapping it later on? Is it because GOPs just like to go after the smart folks at the UW while they leave their boy Scotty alone?

Lastly, here's a follow-up from something I had a couple of weeks ago.on the state's Universal Services Fund. The USF is a user fee on communication technologies, and is a non-tax source, much like the non-tax funds that the UW System's surplus came from.
7. Broadband Grant Program
In the budget bill, $4.7 million SEG is appropriated in fiscal year 2013-14 from the universal service fund to fund a new broadband expansion grant program for underserved areas. The intent was to use the unencumbered balance of the fund (i.e. a SURPLUS) , which has subsequently been reestimated to $500,000, and to not increase utility assessment or impact current law programs supported by the fund.
So wait, using a "rainy day fund" for excess fee revenue for a program Walker wanted was apparently OK for WisGOP, since I don't remember any hearings showing outrage about how the USF gained a multi-million dollar balance at the same time that fee-supported library funding was cut. And now that surplus is $4 million less for this Broadband Program, which is apparently the type of "spend-first" move the Legislative GOPs wanted the UW System to do instead of saving their fee-generated revenues.

Now I don't necessarily think the Walker Administration is bad for shifting around this money to fit needs- you do what you have to do to keep things afloat. And fund shifts and changes have been common in the state for decades. If the Legislature wants to remove Walker's proposed boost in GPR for the UW System and/or put in a tuition freeze to conserve resources and help college affordability for Wisconsinites, those are defendable responses to the good fiscal situation in the System's PR accounts.

But spare me the suspense about how the high UW surpluses are some kind of scandal worthy of major air time on right-wing media. It's not. In fact, the silence the Legislative GOP has continued in the fact of numerous similar budget shell games makes their "tell" even more obvious.

The right-wing "outrage" about the UW System's surplus is nothing more than a misdirection play to get the public's eye off of WisGOP's horrible record on jobs, and the many budget holes that still exist. And our media is so lame and bought-off that they went along with the GOP's shiny object" strategy, and fell for this hook, line and sinker. Let's see if those guys in the papers and on TV pay 1/10th of that attention to the budget shifts we see here, or to any of the additional ones that are sure to follow in the next 8 weeks.


  1. You nailed it. Misdirection plays, shifting surpluses without really telling anyone, and the media is off chasing phony outrage.

    This is getting old, and there doesn't seem to be any blowback yet. The Democrats? They fell all over themselves to appear as fiscally ridiculous as their disciplinary overlords.

  2. And speaking of money-funneling, WEDC's looking for a new CFO AGAIN, since the last one quit after 1 day. Wonder what that person saw?

    Funny how the GOPs aren't that keen on taxpayer accountability when it comes to WEDC or Walker moves. Only with them smarty-pants intellectuals on top of Bascom Hill.