The bigger the surplus the harder it is for elected officials of all stripes to resist spending. The constant asks from lobby groups and constituents, pressure from the other party, and the fun of spending other people’s money are a powerful lure, and we’ve seen that played out this budget.
Record-setting surplus, record-setting spending.
Without having taken up a tax cut, the shared revenue appropriation (the much-lauded bill did not appropriate money, just laid out the framework), a funding increase/cut for the UW, or accounting for any of the usual spending during final action, the committee has increased spending over base by nearly $9 billion and we’re breathing down the neck of a historic, record-setting $100 billion state budget.
For perspective, the last two budgets raised spending $12.7 billion combined; JFC has spent us 70% of the way there and they’re not done yet. This budget is laboriously waddling it’s way to the finish line, groaning “better get a bucket” a la Monty Python.
Substantive, transformational tax reform that had been easily possible just 6 weeks ago was brushed aside in favor of huge spending increases. Discussions apparently continue, but tax cuts deprive the treasury (a fine idea) and the surplus has been surpassed. It’s the government equivalent of a financial illiterate blowing every cent of their vacation savings on super cute resort wear then scrambling to figure out if or how they can afford travel and lodging.
Word has it there is intense pressure from conservatives to have the committee deliver a tax cut. Leaders mentioned a $3 billion figure last weekend, down substantially from their earlier markers, and the amount discussed seems to be dwindling. It’s almost certain there will be a tax cut; it’s more certain there will be no tax reform.
Tax cuts were not the only reforms left withering on the vine. The shared revenue changes simply dumped more money into local coffers. The education package invests more in failing public schools with no reforms, no ban on teaching children to be racist, no ban on schools concealing health information from parents, no real report cards, no demands for accountability. Just more money…something conservatives have been insisting isn’t the solution to poor achievement for decades.
As the Milwaukee Bailout begins to unravel hours after it was signed into law, reforms that could have forced the city and county to get their financial houses in order were ignored in the rush to deal, or the deal to rush.
The committee has noticed a hearing for late Thursday afternoon, and if members are to get out of town before the July 4th holiday, things will have to wrap up very soon. Tomorrow – more likely Friday, will see the committee finalize their plan.
It’s a longshot, but some conservatives hope the next 36 hours will see a roll-back of some spending and a more substantive tax cut than seems to be in the works.