Perspectives
February 26, 2021 | By Dan O’Donnell
Policy Issues
Accountable Government State Budget

Evers’ Budget Doesn’t Let a Good Crisis Go To Waste

Dan O’Donnell finds that Governor Evers’ new biennial budget takes to heart Rahm Emanuel’s famous advice to “never let a good crisis go to waste.”

If America has learned anything from Congressional Democrats’ pork-laden COVID-19 relief bill, it’s that they have taken to heart Rahm Emanuel’s famous advice to “never let a good crisis go to waste.” Under the guise of recovering from a disaster that was largely of lockdown-happy government’s own making, they have earmarked billions of dollars for such decidedly non-COVID related things as environmental justice, the preservation of native languages, and railroad pension bailouts.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has learned this lesson well, as his biennial state budget is a veritable cornucopia of liberal wish fulfillment covered by a thin veneer of COVID relief he’s calling the “Badger Bounceback.”

“As both a state and a country,” Evers said during last week’s Budget Address, “we find ourselves with a decision to make—when this pandemic is over, we could go back to the way things always were and always have been, or we can take this moment to demand the future we dream.”

In other words, Evers is taking this moment to ensure that the COVID crisis doesn’t go to waste.

The Governor is proposing a whopping $1.67 billion increase in state taxes and tens of millions more in local taxes by allowing counties and larger cities to impose new sales taxes. Would all of this new revenue go to COVID relief? Of course not. Evers is, after all, taking this moment to demand the future he dreams.

And those dreams are expensive, as total state spending would increase by $4.1 billion next year and hit $91 billion over the next two years. Really, though, aren’t our children worth it?

“After all we’ve been through, we aren’t going to apologize for wanting more for each other—for our neighbors, for our kids, our parents and grandparents, and our state’s future,” Evers said last week.

What he failed to mention—and what is vital to understand—is that our state’s present isn’t nearly as bad as it seems. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau has determined that Wisconsin will end the 2020-2021 fiscal year with a $1.76 billion balance. This a far better fiscal situation than a November estimate that found the state $620 million in the black. Wisconsin also has an unexpected $685 million surplus in its Medicaid account thanks to the federal government’s increase in state reimbursement during the COVID pandemic.

On top of all of this, Wisconsin has received $14.9 billion in federal COVID relief. That amounts to a full 16.4% of the total biennial state budget. How much more, exactly, does Governor Evers’ dreams for the future require?

His bloated budget is just Wisconsin’s version of the pork-filled federal COVID bill; an attempt at using the emotional appeal of pandemic relief as a Trojan horse for far-left fantasies. Wisconsin’s numbers of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have all been crashing since their peak in mid-November, and it is looking more and more obvious that the worst of the pandemic is behind us.

Still, Evers is openly talking about keeping the state under a Public Health Emergency and mandating masks for nearly another year while crafting a budget proposal that pretends that state government is in a far worse fiscal position than it really is.

Total state spending increased by $8 billion over the past year and that, combined with the influx of nearly $15 billion in federal COVID relief has been more than adequate to weather the storm of the past year. Now the clouds are clearing, no matter how desperately Evers tries to convince the state otherwise.

There is no longer a crisis, but Evers still isn’t letting it go to waste.

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