Feb. 27, 2023
Guest Perspective by Sen. Howard Marklein
Governor Tony Evers’ budget ideas – in total – spend $103.8 billion. This is a 17% increase in spending. His ideas would turn a $7 billion surplus into a nearly $3 billion deficit by 2027!
Evers’ full proposal is 1,815 pages. Compare this to the state’s base budget which weighs in at 412 pages. The extra 1,403 pages are full of spending, spending…and more spending.
I am telling you this because I know that over the next several weeks, Evers will be promoting one-off ideas from his list. He will be traveling all over the state to talk about his ideas. He will try to sell you his ideas in pieces.
Some of the ideas might sound good on their own. Some of them, I agree with. Some of these ideas were drafted by Republicans in the legislature. Some of these ideas are even based on our bills that he vetoed!
Regardless of Evers’ list of ideas, it is my job, along with the rest of the legislature, to build the whole state budget. We can’t just look at individual ideas. We must take everything into consideration to make sure we are funding your priorities, meeting our financial obligations and preparing for the future. We are also going to cut your taxes because, frankly, we are collecting too much.
We will not be including most, if not all, non-fiscal policy in the state budget. This means that if an idea does not include funding, spending or tax reform, it should not be in the budget bill. These ideas should be stand-alone bills that move through the formal legislative process. Non-fiscal policy deserves open discussion, public hearings, committee votes and floor debate. It should not be tucked into a spending document.
For example, the legalization of recreational marijuana, automatic voter registration and gun background check policies should not be in the budget. I believe that these issues should be discussed and debated in the full light of day as individual pieces of legislation.
Over the next several weeks, please keep in mind that Evers’ ideas, when combined into a budget proposal, spend a lot of money. In fact, his ideas spend $5 billion (BILLION!) more than our state agencies requested. For the Department of Administration (DOA), his ideas spend $1 billion (BILLION) more than we spent last year. In the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), he wants to increase spending by $2.8 billion (BILLION!).
I agree that we need to make unprecedented investments in a lot of our people and agencies. Inflation is taking its toll. I recently visited the New Lisbon Correctional Institution in my district and the vacancy rate in the Department of Corrections (DOC) is unacceptable. Our prison staff are being crushed by vacancies and overtime. It cannot continue. But I also know that making big investments in one agency require us to hold the line in others. We must strike this balance.
The state budget will spend money. This is a fact. But it is important for the legislature to consider all of the spending as a whole. It is also imperative that we analyze how this spending will impact the future. We do not want to spend, spend, spend ourselves into a future hole. I am very proud of the work we have done over the last 12 years and I know that we will build a good budget that funds our priorities, addresses our obligations and cuts taxes while protecting our checkbook for the future.