A comprehensive analysis of Assembly Democrats’ proposed amendments to the recently passed state budget shows that had their amendments been adopted, spending would have increased by $1.7 billion.
Our analysts consulted with the nonpartisan Legisaltive Fiscal Bureau as they went through the amendment packages line by line. Their findings: If the Assembly Democrats’ twelve major packaged amendments to the budget bill had passed, Wisconsin would be looking at a $1,779,098,700 spending increase.
None of the amendments offered by the assembly Democrats passed and many of the later amendments containing similar provisions of earlier packages.
In our analysis of the twelve major amendment packages offered by Assembly Democrats we did not ‘double count’ proposed expenditures: If a specific spending proposal was included in more than one amendment, we only counted the spending once.
The first overt increase in spending was proposed in Amendment 4, titled the Education Package. The package would have increased spending by a total of $1,271,709,900. The largest proposed spending increase would have restored $1.2 billion in general education equalization aid. Interestingly, the Democrats attempted to use a familiar accounting gimmick, common in previous Wisconsin budgets, to make this look like only a $349.6 million dollar spending increase. Assembly Democrats attempted to shift $897.4 million of this increase onto the 2013-2015 budget. The amendment as proposed did not reflect this but the Legislative Fiscal Bureau provided this detail. Regardless of the timing, Assembly Democrats attempted to increase spending by $1,271,709,900.
Amendment 6, which the Democrats labeled the Clean Government Package, increased childcare funding, a program wrought with fraud and abuse. In March 2010, the MacIver Institute uncovered a cumulative total of $7 million in overpayments. This amendment would have increased spending by over $5 million.
Amendment 7, the so-called Tax Fairness Package, would have increased taxes on capital gains and manufacturers by $356.3 million. It also attempted to restore $56.2 million for the earned income tax credit and $13.6 million for the homestead tax credit. Critics classify these programs as welfare spending even though they contain the word “tax” in their title. These credits would give “tax refunds” to people who don’t pay taxes to begin with.
In Amendment 8 they proposed a $71.6 million increase in aid to technical colleges. Along with spending for a transitional jobs program and the Department of Administration, the amendment totaled $84,468,400 in increases.
In their package on Healthcare, Amendment 9, the Democrats attempted to remove the enrollment cap on family care, a move that would have cost the state an estimated $290 million over the biennium. The Democrats also attempted to stipulate that $466 million in unspecified cuts made by the governor’s bill could only be made through efficiencies. This was an attempt to maintain current services, remove eligibility restrictions, and not increase cost sharing by enrollees.
In the Public Safety Package, Amendment 10, the Democrats attempted to increase funding to the Assistant District Attorneys by $2 million. The total cost of the amendment was $2,071,400.
In Amendment 11, the Democrats’ Higher Education Package, they proposed an increase in funding to WiSys Technologies to the tune of $800,000. The amendment also included the same increase in technical college aid as amendments 8 and 35.
Their Environment Package, Amendment 12, proposed an increase in the bonding allowance of the land stewardship fund by $234 million as well as to the Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easements (PACE) by $12 million. The total proposed bonding increase was $246,000,000. These increases would have cost the state $2,980,000 in principle and interest payments over the biennium. The Joint Finance Committee’s budget bill did not zero out these bonding allowances. The bill only decreased them from $86 to $60 million per year from fiscal year 2011-12 through 2019-20 for the stewardship program. The amendment also increased aid for recycling by $26 million over the two-year period. This brings the total spending increase to $28,980,000.
Their self-titled Safety Net Package, Amendment 13, was made up of mostly welfare spending. The democrats proposed a $21 million increase to the Wisconsin Works Program and another $4 million in child support local assistance.
As it was passed by the legislature, the new state budget erased the structural deficit and is scheduled to leave the budget $300 million in the black.
However, had the Assembly Democrats been successful in their attempts to amend the budget, the plan would have left the state with a $1.4 billion deficit going into the 2013-2015 budget deliberations.