The legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance criticized Gov. Jim Doyle’s proposed budget Wednesday, mainly due to the $2 billion dollar increase in state spending.
According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Doyle’s budget would increase spending by $2.2 billion over the next two years.
State Rep. Dean Kaufert, R-Neenah, and Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, co-chairmen of the Finance Committee, said the increase in spending is too much for Wisconsin to handle.
“Essentially what he’s doing is jacking up state spending,” Mike Prentiss, spokesperson for Fitzgerald, said. “We are facing a $1.6 billion dollar deficit and it’s not a responsible way to put a budget together. It isn’t going to do anything to fix the challenges we are facing right now.”
The Department of Administration, however, asserts the increase in spending is necessary to achieve Doyle’s budget priorities.
“The governor has some core priorities in his budget,” Department of Administration spokesperson Scott Larrivee said. “The major emphasis is on education and controlling property taxes. The governor has a responsibly balanced budget that doesn’t raise taxes.”
Kaufert and Fitzgerald also find fault with the proposed budget because it would transfer money from segregated funds.
The proposed budget would take over $800 million from various funding, such as the transportation fund, and apply it to places believed to be more immediately beneficial.
Larrivee said the transportation budget is $4.4 billion, one of the largest transportation budgets in history. If some money flows from the fund to education, more people can benefit.
“The major focus is funding education,” Larrivee said. “The governor’s budget makes historic funding of education. That is significant and setting up Wisconsin for long-term growth.”
According to Larrivee, the Legislature approved a transfer of more than $600 million for the last budget. Fund transfers are not uncommon, he added.
Kaufert and Fitzgerald said they do not approve of the transfers because they would not be necessary if state spending wasn’t facing such an increase.
“If he wasn’t increasing spending by $2 billion dollars, he wouldn’t need to play all these games,” Prentiss said. “The legislature will put together a budget that is friendly to the taxpayers, but if you hold the line on spending, you don’t have to resort to accounting tricks and other games.”
While the implication of fund transfers for the budget is unsure, there are a few decisions legislators will likely make. They will most likely add a property tax freeze, which would limit the property taxes citizens pay for the next few years. However, Doyle has a history of vetoing the plan.
Prentiss said it is also likely there will be a University of Wisconsin System tuition increase of approximately five to seven percent.
There have been five budget hearings for the Joint Committee on Finance and the committee is in the process of gathering information, according to Prentiss.
“Once we have all the information, the Finance Committee will sit down and evaluate everything we heard,” Prentiss said.