Joint Finance Democrats Proposed $1.5 Billion in Increased Spending

June 14, 2013

[Madison, Wisc…] If Democrats had their way in the Joint Committee on Finance (JFC), they would have passed a budget last week that increased spending by more than $1.5 billion over Governor Scott Walker’s proposed budget.

Democratic members of JFC also voted to adopt the Governor’s recommendation for increased bonding for the Building Commission. That plan would call for more than $1.1 billion in bonding, $250 million more than the measure passed by Republicans on the Committee.

The MacIver Institute recently completed a comprehensive analysis of motions that were introduced by Democrats on JFC. That analysis showed that if approved, these motions would have dramatically changed Wisconsin’s fiscal outlook.

The Finance Committee is made up of 16 members, 12 Republicans and four Democrats.

Just over $500 million of additional spending would have gone to the dramatic Medicaid expansion proposed under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Walker and Republicans decided to reject the expansion in part because of the uncertainty of the federal funds.

Democrats argued that the spending on the Medicaid expansion would be entirely covered by the federal government but legislative and congressional leaders fear otherwise.

Congressman Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, warned states against accepting the Medicaid expansion.

“The fastest thing that’s going to go when we’re cutting spending in Washington is a 100 or 90 percent match rate for Medicaid. There’s no way. It doesn’t matter if Republicans are running Congress or Democrats are running Congress. There’s no way we’re going to keep those match rates like that.” Ryan said.

Democrats proposed two actual spending cuts out of more than 40 total motions. They voted to cut funding to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation by nearly $17 million, and Sen. Bob Wirch (D-Pleasant Prairie) wanted to sell the Governor’s executive residence for an annual savings of $250,000.

They also proposed lower income tax rates for some people in the state. JFC Democrats proposed an income tax cut on individuals in the bottom two tax brackets that would provide $302 million in tax relief to married-joint filers making less than $29,020 a year and individuals that make less than $21,760.

Taxpayers in the lower brackets would only have two years of reduced rates. Democrats ensured that the tax cut would end in tax year 2015, raising the rates back to current levels.

The tax reform plan authored by Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) that was modified and passed by fellow JFC Republicans lowers income tax rates for every Wisconsin taxpayer, reduces the brackets from five to four, and is permanent.

The State Assembly is scheduled to debate the budget on Tuesday.