Huebsch sent a response letter to a request that Dem Senators made last week demanding to know what cuts the Walker Administration was planning to make to the budget between now and June 2015, in order to make it balance. Naturally, Huebsch ignores that question, but does bring a bit of news in his response.
….to help satisfy your inquiry, I asked Revenue Secretary Rick Chandler to provide me with a written update regarding collections in the first two months of fiscal year 2015. We are in a stronger financial position than forecasted with tax revenues $48.8 million higher than expected for July and August 2014, which keeps us on track to meet the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s May 2014 projections for the current fiscal year.One problem with Huebsch's comments- that last sentence is FALSE. One look at those May 2014 Fiscal Bureau projections shows that there is revenue growth forecast for the current biennium.
As I’m sure you are aware, State revenue tax collections typically fluctuate month-to-month throughout a two-year budget cycle, and Governor Walker and the Legislature prepared for this variability when building the biennial budget. It is important to remember that the Legislative Fiscal Bureau forecast assumes zero revenue growth in this biennium or the next.
General Fund tax projections, LFB May 2014
FY 2014- $14.229 billion (actual number $13.948 billion)
FY 2015- $14.725 billion
Projected rev. growth in May 2014 projections- 3.49%
Growth needed based on FY 2014 actual for $14.725 billion- 5.57%
As Sen. Dave Hansen noted last week, a 5.57% revenue increase is extremely unlikely, given the state’s past history. In addition, what does Huebsch mean when he says revenues were “$48.8 million higher than expected” in July and August? Compared to what? The end of June? July-August 2013? I’d like to see the actual numbers on that one (which of course, are not provided). Also worth noting is that the month of August got 1 extra day of the Labor Day weekend in 2014, which in a tourist-based state like Wisconsin is kind of a big deal when you’re talking sales taxes and related revenues. Let me see the September revenue numbers before I start thinking this budget is anywhere close to back on track.
For another clue on the budget, I found it interesting that Huebsch and DOA released the General Fund Cash Report to the Joint Finance Committee today. This is a regular report that gives a look at the state’s cash flow, and while it is not an exact match for General Fund revenues and expenses, it’s not a bad proxy. This cash balance number goes up and down throughout the year based on when certain bills come in and get paid, and it had slipped earlier this year, portending the revenue shortfall and bad budget numbers that followed.
Projected opening cash balance forecast for October 2014
April 30, 2014 +$1,785.5 million
July 30, 2014 +$1,260.4 million (down $525.1 million)
September 16, 2014 +1,537.3 million
Sept. #- UP $276.9 million vs. July. DOWN $248.2 million vs April.
So maybe there’s some truth to Huebsch’s claim that the current budget isn’t in as dire shape as it seemed last week. But it also shows that we’ve only made up a little more than half the hole that was dug in the earlier part of the Summer after two rounds of Koo-Koo tax cuts hit.
There’s also this interesting whine that Huebsch throws in for the Dem Senators in his response letter.
The only exercise more negligent [than to assume no revenue growth] would be to add the new agency 2015-17 budget requests DOA has recently received and proclaim that we now have a new financial crisis on our hands.OH REALLY? So we can ignore the $760 million in extra state Medicaid spending and the $831.5 million in total state tax dollars that are needed just to keep the Department of Health Services operating at the same level as today? We shouldn’t add those figures to the base expenses for 2015-17, because this situation magically will be magically fixed over the next 9 months? And we should assume revenue growth will happen over the next two years but throw out any extra costs due to inflation or population or additional Wisconsinites in need of assistance?
Sorry Mike, it doesn’t work that way. Especially when in your letter you repeat the Walker Admin’s lie about a “$3.6 billion budget deficit” in the next paragraph- a number based on the same type of budget requests that Huebsch says shouldn’t be counted! I seem to recall you guys claiming that all these unmet needs meant there was a budget crisis in 2011, which is why the “bomb” of Act 10 had to be dropped. Were you lying then about a crisis, or are you lying now?
Sometimes it’s better to lay back and let the complaints drop instead of answering them, because trying to talk your way out of it just makes your dig your hole even deeper. And speaking of digging holes, look what’s hitting the airwaves….
Keep talking, WisGOPs. The spin on your failed record looks lamer by the day.