According to the recently released budget estimates of the Wisconsin Department of Administration, fiscal year 2013 will start with a $342.1 million positive balance, the largest opening balance since fiscal year 2001.
A DOA statement said there would be no structural deficit for the 2013-15 budget planning process, and for the first time in three biennia, the state does not need a budget repair bill. The beginning of the current biennium, by contrast, saw a $3.6 billion structural deficit.
The statement also noted a $108.7 million deposit to the state’s rainy day fund in October, in addition to a smaller deposit made last year.
“In the first time in a decade, Governor (Scott) Walker and this administration have set the standard that government will not spend more money than it has,” DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch said. “We will continue to our frugal management of taxpayers’ dollars so we’re in the best position to help the state grow and create jobs for our hard-working families.”
In an email to The Badger Herald, Walker’s spokesperson, Cullen Werwie, said he expects the state’s economy to continue growing with increasing revenues and jobs.
Werwie said Walker’s reforms have ensured the state’s fiscal situation is better, also focusing on the two consecutive years of rainy day fund deposits, a first in the state’s history.
“Because of the decisions made last year, the current budget we are operating under was rated credit positive and Wisconsin’s fiscal outlook has improved,” Werwie said. “More importantly, heading into the next budget we are in the unique position of having anticipated surpluses, increased revenue and projected economic growth.”
Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance President Todd Berry said he would not describe the state’s fiscal situation as “rosy” and said it is “not great but not bad.”
He said there might be different revenue estimates in January and the governor and Legislature still need to go through the agency requests the DOA submitted today.
“This is really the first step in a long process,” Berry said. “And what it says is the revenue growth is moderate and there’s not a lot of extra cash laying around, but we’re not in the hole.”
Rep. Jon Richards, D-Milwaukee, said although the numbers from the DOA are positive, they came at the cost of public services.
He said he encourages Republican legislators to work with his party on the state’s next budget and ensure the interests of every Wisconsinite are represented.
“Governor Walker and legislative Republicans balanced their current budget by making historic cuts to public schools, slashing worker training programs and universities and knocking $21,500 off BadgerCare,” Richards said. “The next state budget offers an opportunity to reverse course so we can help the middle class and move Wisconsin forward again.”
The new Senate Minority Leader, Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, released a statement echoing Richards’ comments and cautioned legislators to wait for “real budgetary numbers” that will be released in January.
Melanie Conklin, spokesperson for Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, also said the public needs to look at the numbers with “extreme caution.”
“These budget projections resemble Swiss cheese — they are so full of holes,” Conklin said. “Many factors are not taken into consideration here in order for them to paint a rosy surplus picture.”