Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Gone with the wind

The latest Wisconsin Club for Growth newsletter is out, and I found this item of particular interest:

Gone with the Wind

On December 12, 2008, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle appeared before Congress with both hands out, asking for more than $3.5 billion to "ease the effect of the recession" on Wisconsin's state budget. Doyle claimed that the recession was to blame for Wisconsin's $5.4 billion deficit; pretending state elected leaders had nothing to do with the budget hole.

The Governor went on to explain how he couldn't possibly be to blame for Wisconsin's fiscal mess since he had been so responsible in his budgeting. "I made $270 million in cuts to state government this year," Doyle said. "Those cuts, when combined with actions we took in our original two-year spending plan, totaled $500 million in reductions to state agencies.”

Actually, the most recent budget adjustment bill Doyle signed into law spent $13.5 billion in general purpose revenue in 2007-08 and $14 billion in 2008-09. Compared to the $13.2 billion in budgeted expenditures in 2006-07. This represents a $1.1 billion spending increase in the budget Doyle claims “cut” spending. In his 2007-09 budget Doyle created BadgerCare Plus, which increased taxpayer-funded health care to Wisconsin residents. The program was $25 million over-budget within months of being signed into law.

Further, the last budget signed by Doyle left a $1.6 billion structural deficit. While the budget must be balanced on a cash basis, Governors can play games by pushing appropriations off into the future, leaving it to subsequent legislatures to pay for the spending. So before the current recession hit, Doyle already knew his budget was $1.6 billion in the red.

Some tax watchdog organizations have questioned Doyle's $5.4 billion budget deficit figure because nearly $2.8 billion of the deficit is derived from departmental spending increase requests, rather than actual spending.

So why would Doyle make the deficit look bigger than it is? The Lakeland Times hits the nail right on the head: if Doyle can make the deficit look worse, he might be able to beg the feds for more cash to prop up his atrocious budgeting. If the deficit looked smaller, Congress might not be quite as generous when it cuts a check to the state.

In case there was any confusion about whether the Governor's budget numbers are all about federal aid, Doyle joined four other governors in early January, calling for a $1 trillion bailout package. Doyle's budget tricks have dug the state into a deep fiscal hole which he now blames on the recession, and he has overstated the effect of the recession in order to prop up the state budget with pork from the federal “stimulus” package. If Doyle is successful in getting one-time federal tax money to cover his tracks, the next state budget will have huge funding holes and an ongoing structural deficit. But like Scarlet O’Hara, Doyle can’t think about that right now. He’ll think about that tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day!

That's leadership, Wisconsin-style.