Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Walker's "0%" budget instructions somehow mostly meaningless AND damaging to roads, higher ed

I wantyed to take a minute to break down what our Fair Guv gave in his budget instructions yesterday.
All agencies should assume there will be zero growth in overall GPR appropriations in each fiscal year during the 2019-21 biennium, and specific program needs should be managed within this general constraint.

Note: Exceptions will occur only for K-12 school aids; required basic cost-to-continue needs for the state's institutions, i.e., the Department of Corrections and the Department of Health Services institutions; entitlement and related assistance programs in the Department of Health Services (e.g., Medical Assistance), the Department of Children and Families' Division of Safety and Permanence and Division of Milwaukee Child Protective Services, and the Department of Workforce Development's Division of Vocational Rehabilitation; and housekeeping adjustments like standard budget adjustments, fuel and utilities, and debt service.
Sounds like tough budget constraints to keep costs in line and identify base needs that need to be met.

Except those departments and programs that Walker said wasn't subject to the 0% limit are huge ones. K-12 school aids will be over $5.9 billion of General Fund money by themselves in the next fiscal year, and Medical Assistance is another $3.1 billion. Then throw in another $1.1 billion for Corrections and include all other debt service, which will take $517 million out of the General Fund next year (with more likely to follow in 2019-20).

Put that together, and we are already above 60% of $17.5 billion in General Fund spending for next year that is allowed to have their costs go up.

What may be worse is what DOES get frozen out at 0%. It includes a UW System that has been defunded and denigrated for Walker’s 7+ years in office. A 0% increase budget would mean that there would be $60 million fewer state tax dollars going to the UW System in 2021 than there was 12 years ago, in 2009. And that’s before inflation. Then add in 6 years of frozen in-state tuition limiting the ability of those schools to make up the difference, and you’ve got a system that would continue to wither and have the state’s economic competitiveness decline along with it.

The same freeze applies to the Technical College System, which has 20% fewer dollars for instruction and services than it did in a decade ago. That decision to defund the Tech College System sure seems to go against Walker’s most recent ad where he tries to talk up efforts to improve the state’s work force, particularly in the trades that the Tech College System specializes in.

(By the way, the workers in the ad are employed by Walker’s donors at Weldall. Coincidence, I’m sure).

But yet road funding and other DOT duties are supposed to be frozen at 0%? In a biennium when inflation is supposed to rise by a total of around 5% in that time period? With construction costs rising even faster than that these days?

Keeping DOT funding at the already-diminished levels of 2019 means there would be no options other than more cuts to that needed service (which means more potholes). Or it means more borrowing in a time of rising interest rates, adding more constraints to a Transportation Fund that already has an unsustainable and increasing amount of debt to pay off.

Permanent metaphor for funding of roads and UW under this guy.

These realities is what makes this “0% budget increase” pose to be such a boneheaded double-whammy. The 0% limit avoids so many departments that it’s largely rendered meaningless as a cost-controlling measure, but the items that ARE kept at 0% are ones that have already been defunded and damaged during the Age of Fitzwalkerstan, like roads and higher education.

Can we get an adult in charge that actually believes in governance, and recognizes that public goods need to be maintained and reinvested in. Also can that person understand that math and inflation aren’t “liberal plots”, but rules and concepts to be aware of and follow? Thanks.


  1. Does this mean that state employee raises have to come out agency budgets with no increase? Or were raises built into the budget bill? I know cost to employees for benefits will go up so that was accounted for in the budget I hope.

  2. Raises are all in the 2017-19 budget, so those will be assumed to stay for 2019-21. But it would,make it unlikely that ant further increases would happen, while prices and interest rates go up.

    And of course, they could always rescind that Jan 1, 2019 raise of 2%, to fill a post-election budget hole.....

  3. At zero growth they are going to have reduce the workforce one way or another.

  4. It's meant to A.) bait his democrat challengers into screaming for tax increases and B.) agencies are aware of Walker's "budget neutral" Norquist policy. They'll have to adjust.

    1. Problem- they will likely show a deficit by the Sept 15 deadline based on the increases in exempted departments like DHS, DOC and school aids. Debt payments are also slated to,go up in the 2019-21 budget.

      Which means the question must be asked "WHAT WILL SCOTT WALKER CUT?" And if Dems have any guts, they'll answer that question for Scotty with "Walker will cut roads, higher ed, and shared revenues."

  5. Oh yes, absolutely. I'm in the camp of the way Obama answered GOP threats to shut down the federal government several years ago. Make those cuts show at the local level with broken roads, shuttered schools, shut off street lights at night, cut police and fire ...etc. etc. We're in Walker's red state now. But so far, most communities have been fighting it and all that does is make Walker look good.

    It's a vicious circle until we change the executive at the top.

    1. Hope it's you or someone you love that needs that fire or police that doesn't come, you fucking dirtbag.

    2. Umm, G'town kid, isn't Washington County near-broke? So aren't you the one who is most likely to suffer from even more cuts in aids to local governments? So if this state is stupid enough to keep Walker, all I can say is enjoy your new wheel taxes and potholes, SUCKER!

      Stay clASSy, Bradley Boy!

    3. Refreshing that the police and fire depts. are proof that socialism works.