Saturday, December 31, 2016

Wisconsin debt higher than ever under Walker

I'd been waiting over the last couple of weeks to see state reports released on Wisconsin's debt and accounting situation. One of these is the Comprehensive Annual Fiscal Report (CAFR), which usually comes out in mid-December, but has been oddly delayed in 2016, and still hasn't been posted to the public. Last year's CAFR revealed the state's financial condition to be worse than portrayed, because it relied on accounting tricks and delayed payments that Scott Walker claimed he would end when he first ran for governor in 2010 (naturally, that promise went by the wayside once Gov Dropout took office). And that condition is likely to be even worse when the CAFR for FY 2016 comes out....if it ever comes out.

But there is another bit of data that dropped on the Friday before Christmas, and was promptly ignored by the state's media. It's the state's Continuing Disclosure Annual Report, and it's information that goes to people who plan to bid on Wisconsin bonds when they offer it to the public, as well as others who want to get a different picture of Wisconsin's financial stability.

Dig into the Continuing Disclosure, particularly this section on "General Obligations", and you find this stat.

Total State Debt, 2010-2016
Dec 2010 $6.82 billion
Dec 2011 $7.38 billion
Dec 2012 $8.01 billion
Dec 2013 $8.03 billion
Dec 2014 $7.86 billion
Dec 2015 $7.99 billion
Dec 2016 $8.07 billion

In other words, Wisconsin debt is at record levels at the end of 2016, and debt has risen by $1.25 billion since Scott Walker took office after 2010.

Sure, it's leveled off since 2012, a result of the Obama Recovery has led to higher job growth and lower unemployment over the last 4 years allowing for a more stable financial situation. Even so, we've added debt in every year during the Age of Fitzwalkerstan except for 2014- which was a year that Walker and the WisGOPs promptly blew a one-time surplus on tax cuts that mostly helped the rich and corporate, and you've seen chronic revenue shortfalls since then, with debt rising by $215 million over the last 2 years.

The Continuing Disclosure also gives a look at how much the state has already committed for paying off debt in future years. And there's already a whole lot committed for the next couple of budgets.

Debt service projections, FY 2017-2021
2017 $828.7 million >
2018 $864.1 million
2019 $835.8 million
2020 $813.8 million
2021 $731.9 million

Some of the debt that's maturing in 2017 and 2018 (paying the $1,000 off on a $1,000 bond) may be pushed off into future years with more Walker Administration debt shuffles (there's one for $523.6 million scheduled for early 2017). But that has its own set of problems, because Wisconsin is already scheduled to pay at least $543 million in debt for each of the next 10 years, so any debt reshuffling merely adds to that future price tag (since you're paying interest on the new bonds in all those years).

Yeah, things haven't gotten fiscally better in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan. And with a significant revenue shortfall in this Fiscal Year, and nearly $500 million in borrowing requested for the DOT in its current budget, the outlook is even worse.


  1. Thanks for looking at this so carefully.

  2. This is funny, in 2018 now and walker bragged about a surplus from 2017 that was $532 million about the same as the debt payment. I wonder if he skipped that again this year