This week the members of the Joint Committee on Finance are taking the first of many important votes on the state’s new two-year spending plan. As the co-chair of the committee, I’m looking forward to balancing the budget the right way, without passing along massive debt to our children, borrowing billions or raising your taxes.
Over the past eight years, Democrats balanced the state budget by using accounting tricks and gimmicks, raided segregated funds, borrowed money, raised taxes, or filled the gap with one-time federal stimulus money. Basically, we’ve used a band-aid approach but our financial wounds have only gotten worse and this time, there isn’t a big enough band-aid to fix it. It’s now a $3.6 billion dollar gash to the financial health of our state.
Money is very tight so it won’t be easy to balance the state budget. Here’s how the state spends your money:
- 51% goes to local municipalities and schools
- 22% medical assistance
- 7% to corrections
- 7% to the UW System
- 13% is the rest of the state budget.
The governor proposed that most programs be cut by 10%. However, because education is still a priority, schools will see much less of a cut. While this was a hard choice, it’s why the governor and state lawmakers gave local governments and schools the flexibility they need by allowing them to finally fairly address wages and benefits to offset the decreased revenue from the state.
The members of the Joint Finance Committee intend to make the governor’s budget even better. We’ve heard from thousands of people and our collegues have given us their input as well. There’s strong opposition to the governor’s proposal to do away with the recycling mandate and eliminate SeniorCare. It’s now our job to figure out how we can afford to keep such programs while balancing the budget, eliminating our massive deficit and holding the line on taxes.
The Joint Finance Committee plans to finish writing the state’s budget by the end of May, with final lawmaker approval by the middle of June. It’s a short time period but clearly one of the most important times in Wisconsin history. This time around we’re budgeting honestly and reducing the state’s structural deficit to an all-time low. Our goal is to lay the foundation for future balanced budgets. We’re making the tough decisions now so future generations don’t have to.