Despite dozens and dozens of new programs and a massive spending increase, Governor’s speech was short on details or justification
Evers would increase taxes by $1.56 billion on small businesses and farmers so he can hand out $1.53 billion in tax “credits” to the select few
His budget would spend $104 billion all funds, up nearly 16% from the $90 billion all funds spent in the last budget
Two words never mentioned: Crime and Medicaid.
Evers spared one sentence to say he would expand “BadgerCare,” but left off the part where Wisconsin’s MA rolls have already expanded 40% since he took office
Thankfully, the Republican Legislature will throw out the Governor’s reckless budget and start over
Gov. Evers gave his 2023-2025 budget address Wednesday night in Madison.
The Governor spoke for about 40 minutes, a very short speech compared to years past and a speech that was scarce on details, especially given the unprecedented amount of new spending that he is proposing. In press releases leading up to the speech, the Governor outlined several dozens of new programs and billions more in higher spending, tonight he barely touched on any of it. Governor Evers had a prime-time opportunity to make the case for his vision for Wisconsin but he did not take it.
Gov. Evers is proposing another massive and unsustainable state government spending spree. His 2023 budget would spend $104 billion all funds, a $14 billion dollar increase over the last budget or a 14% increase. In Gov. Evers’ first two budgets, all funds spending increased $14 billion. For comparison, Gov. Walker’s first budget spent $66 billion all funds. Walker’s budgets increased on average about $2.5 billion all funds. If this budget passed unchanged, each of Evers’ budgets will increase on average about $9 billion all funds.
The Evers budget also spends more than it takes in both years. The $7.1 billion surplus acts like a savings account that Evers spends down to buy things on his wish list that we don’t have enough tax money to fund.
This produces massive billion-dollar-plus structural deficits: $1.27 billion in FY 25, $1.41 billion in FY 26 and $1.46 billion in FY 27 which also has a negative projected opening balance. This means the savings account runs dry in FY 26 and we will need new revenue (taxes) to finance the ongoing spending on Evers’ ongoing wish-list programs.
Keep in mind, all of these recent increases in state spending come on top of the massive amount of covid aid that the federal government has handed out recently. According to the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Wisconsin governments, businesses and individuals have received $58 billion in covid aid.
It’s easy to see how the size and scope of state government explodes under Evers’ budget. But don’t miss how it also paves the way for a huge increase in local government taxes and spending. If local governments all increased or instituted the sales tax hikes Evers wants, local taxes could go up nearly a billion per year. The local sales tax expansion is effectually a statewide sales tax hike packaged to be more appealing to a legislature eager to boost local spending.
State government spending already outpaces the median family household income.
Gov. Evers tried to gloss over his reckless spending and portray himself as a moderate tonight by uttering the words “we need to save where we can. “
Not sure if even the mainstream media will buy that given these unfathomable spending increases. Evers, of course, talked about bipartisanship and working together with Republicans just before he criticized them from the podium.
Gov. Evers proclaimed that he would be meeting his promise of a “10 percent, middle-class tax cut.” What he forgot to mention is that his tax hikes are larger than the tax cut, tax shifts and tax credits for the select few he’s proposing. He isn’t returning a single dollar of the $7 billion surplus to the taxpayers who earned it, and who paid more in taxes than it costs to fund our bloated budget. Not one dollar, not one cent. He spends the surplus on ongoing programs, and his tax penalties for some and tax benefits for others simply rob Peter to pay Paul.
The Governor referred to local government as partners, not obstacles. Remember, these “local partners” – who just spent the last 2 years blowing billions of covid funds on new turf athletic fields, kids’ LGBTQ library collections, new employees to try to find more government money to fund the new programs they created with one-time money, diversity coordinators, and voting themselves raises – get another huge taxpayer handout in Evers budget plan.
Evers congratulated himself for proposing the largest K12 investment in state history but for some reason did not spend much time at all talking about all of those new investments or K12 in general. And Evers certainly did not talk about the real crisis in K12 education – our plunging academic and literacy scores.
Almost 60% of our children are failing – failing here means kids are testing BELOW their grade level – English and Math on the Forward Exam but the Gov refused to talk about the problem. Think about that for a second – 60% of our children are not performing at the minimum, at their grade level, in Math or English.
Instead, he said free breakfast and lunch for all students, not just the needy, will make them “course-work ready.” Our K12 academic achievement and literacy scores are so poor, his whole speech should have centered around why the education establishment is failing our children and how we are going to fix the problem.
We wish our dismal test scores could be simply solved by full stomachs.
It is infuriating that Gov. Evers refuses to own up to the problem and beyond disappointing that he won’t help our children get back on track.
Evers talked about the latest Youth Risk Survey and the daunting challenges that our kids face. He repeated his slogan that what is best for our kids is what is best for our state. Evers, however, didn’t mention that his decision to unnecessarily close down our schools and force our kids deeper into isolation is the biggest reason why so children are struggling today.
He even went so far to say that parents are the first and best educators for their children. Yet Gov. Evers didn’t mention his veto last session of the Parents’ Bill of Rights which would force educators to recognize a parent’s fundamental responsibility and right to make decisions about their child’s education, healthcare, and welfare.
Gov. Evers – How can we be the best educators for our children, how can we be their parents if schools deliberately keep us in the dark about what our kids are going through or feeling?
In his proposed budget, Gov. Evers sends more than half of his $500 million mental health initiative funding to schools. Funny, even though he has previously declared this the year of mental health, he did not mention it in this speech. Making schools into the health care providers for every student is a red flag for Wisconsin parents who have been cut out of their children’s health and well-being by public schools.
Schools are failing at their fundamental mission – teaching kids to read and do math. They can’t handle that basic responsibility, much less responsibility for health care for every child. And if other school districts deliberately bar parents from important conversations and decisions, like the Madison school district, this may be Gov. Evers worst of many horrible budget ideas.
Gov. Evers finished his short and obtuse speech by stating that his priorities are not extreme, his are not fringe ideas, and this is not a wish list. In some ways, this was the perfect backwards way for Evers to end the night – by telling everyone, not what he stands for and why, but by telling everyone what he is NOT – he is really telling us he is not much of a leader and, despite his feigned protestations, he is telling us he prefers partisan skirmishes to finding common ground solutions to the challenges we face.
Check back at MacIverInstitue.com for updates and continuing analysis of the Governor’s 2023-2025 state budget.