Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sen. Vinehout gets her budget geek on

One of many reasons I like State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout is that she's willing to be wonky, and her recent blog post at Uppity Wisconsin is a good example. Vinehout breaks down the state budget in a detailed, to-the-point manner that shows the flaws and dangers Wisconsin will face over the next few years as a result of this irresponsible WisGOP policy.
Myth number one says the state spending is less and implies the size of government is smaller.

But, according to numbers released by the nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, the 2013-15 budget spends $4 billion more than the previous. In fact, state spending is greater than it has ever been in Wisconsin’s history.

The new spending goes to a number of expensive new programs. Half of the $4 billion goes to health spending. But for first time in many years there are fewer people covered by state health programs. Nearly 100,000 people are expected to lose state health coverage by January. Not taking federal money for Medicaid expansion left the state budget and citizenry in worse shape.
In addition to getting less bang for the Medicaid buck, another report by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows Gov. Walker's decision not to take Obamacare funds will make Wisconsin Number 1 in the country for throwing people off of Medicaid and onto the federal health care exchanges. This right-wing bubble-world decision not to take the federal Medicaid funds looks dumber by the day.

Back to Sen. Vinehout's breakdown.
When spending is greater than revenue – a deficit exists. Lawmakers are bound by the state constitution to balance the budget.

To do this, budget writers carried money over from the last fiscal year to create a technically balanced budget. But when spending exceeds revenue the imbalance catches up with us in the next budget creating a “structural” (or built in) deficit.

A recent report from the LFB pegs this deficit at the end of the 2015-2017 budget at MINUS $545 million.
And that doesn't take into effect the Transportation Fund, which is projected to spend $108 million more than it takes in for the next two years, and has increasing debt service in future years to pay due to massive borrowing in this budget.

Sen. Vinehout touches on this in the next myth she busts.
The third myth says the state eliminated the debt. This is false. In fact, state debt reaches record levels in the 2013-15 budget.

Why? The budget increases borrowing by more than $2 billion. Almost half of this borrowing goes to transportation spending. In addition, debt payments not made in the last legislative session catch up to lawmakers.

When debt payments are not paid, interest adds up. In the depths of the recession, Governor Doyle delayed debt payments to gain cash and keep government going.

In the 2011-13 legislative session, Governor Walker did not pay an even larger amount of debt payments coming due. Because debt payments were not made more money goes to pay off debt in this budget than ever before.
And that's why this state is fiscally screwed looking ahead, because we decided to pass Koo-Koo tax cuts, turn down the ACA's Medicaid money, and borrow instead of keeping taxes level, taking the Medicaid funds, and paying our bills as we go. And that choice will handcuff this state for many years ahead, regardless of who is governor.

This type of detailed breakdown is exactly why I wish Sen. Vinehout would run for governor. It's her combination of fire, attention to rural issues and wonkiness that makes for a complete contrast to the suburban dullard currently in office. And she's the type of candidate that appeals to voters that the DPW needs to get for 2014.

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