Wisconsin’s finances, 3 years later

Do you remember the dust up in Wisconsin over Governor Scott Walker’s controversial plan to strip collective bargaining rights for public employees? You know, the mess so contentious that Democratic state senators fled to Illinois to ensure the Wisconsin state senate would not have a quorum and could therefore not move forward with any legislative action. The Democrats argued that the governor was trampling workers rights; Republicans said that deep cuts were required to address a two-year budget with a projected shortfall of $3.6 billion.

Many railed against the projections; then State Representative (now United States Congressman?!) Mark Pocum called it “a bogus figure”. Liberal blogger Ezra Klein claimed the governor was manufacturing a crisis to “achieve a longtime ideological objective”, and that “he added $120 million to the 2011-2013 deficits, and perhaps more in the years after that.”
However, according to Politifact, outside experts agreed with the Governor’s budget projections.

After many months of boycotts and a failed attempt to recall the governor in 2012, the issue disappeared from the national headlines. Make no mistake, painful cuts were made to education, local government, and many other programs. But that’s the responsible thing to do when you don’t have the money.

The 2011-2013 budget period that was the subject of so much debate is now all in the books (the Wisconsin fiscal year ended on June 30, 2013). The non-partisan Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau shows the 2013-2014 general fund starting with a balance of $759 million.

There are many factors that influence revenue and expenditures in Wisconsin, and those factors are not solely determined by the budget policies of Governor Walker (the federal American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 resulted in the elimination of the Wisconsin estate tax, costing the state several hundred million dollars in revenue). However, there is no question that Governor Walker’s controversial policies have been good for the fiscal health of the state.

Too bad he would never be elected as mayor of Detroit.