John Gard’s whining retort to last night’s speech by Gov. Doyle deserves to be exposed with a few bright shining facts pulled directly from the recent Wisconsin Bienium budget:
When Governor Jim Doyle assumed office in January 2003, he inherited a situation unlike that faced by any previous Wisconsin Governor: a $3.2 billion deficit. Caused by nearly two decades of a state government living beyond its means, even in times of unprecedented economic growth, the state faced serious choices. For years instead of confronting the fiscal realities, decisions had been made to delay solving the problem until another day.
In facing this historic deficit, Governor Doyle remained committed to balancing the budget without raising taxes. He firmly believed that the taxpayers of Wisconsin had done their part and they should not pay the price for the fiscal mismanagement of previous Governors and legislators. He proposed a budget that…
- cut agency requests by nearly one billion dollars
- reduced spending on state operations by nearly 10%
- eliminated 2900 positions, and
- balanced the budget without raising taxes.
- At the same time, he invested nearly $200 million in education
- protected vital local services, and
- insured access to affordable health care for Wisconsin’s working families and seniors.
Since the passage of Governor Doyle’s first budget, and the enactment of many of the key provisions of his Grow Wisconsin plan, Wisconsin has been on the move. In the past year, the state has created 70,000 new jobs, leading the Midwest in job growth and the entire nation in the resurgence of manufacturing employment.
The results of the gains in the state’s economy are reflected in the revenue estimates for the 2005-07 biennium produced by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. They project a healthy growth in state revenues of $485 million in FY06 (4.3%) and another $599 million in FY07 (5.1%). Leading this growth is a surge in individual income tax revenue, generated by growing employment and rising wages. The revenue estimates assume a 6.6% growth in individual income tax receipts in FY06 and 6.9% in FY07, following a strong 6.7% gain in this year.
Despite the upbeat economic news, the state still must deal with a $1.6 billion deficit. The deficit results from the remaining fiscal problems leftover from the reckless decisions that led to the $3.2 billion deficit, cost pressures caused by the national economic slowdown, and the accelerating costs of Medicaid and the diminishing federal support for financing it.
As with Governor Doyle’s initial budget, a key guiding principle in developing the 2005-07 budget is to balance the budget without raising taxes. Creating a more competitive tax climate fosters economic growth by attracting more companies to locate in the state and encouraging businesses to expand their operations within the state. Consequently, the 2005-07 budget does not raise income, sales, corporate, or excise taxes.
Not only does the budget not raise taxes, but taxpayers in Wisconsin will benefit from a number of tax reductions that will begin to take effect during this biennium including the single factor sales tax reform, the dairy modernization tax credit, the venture capital tax credits, and the energy sales tax exemption for manufacturers.
Eliminating a $1.6 billion deficit without raising taxes, and meeting the goal of two-thirds funding of schools, requires tough fiscal choices in the rest of the budget. As with Governor Doyle’s first budget, this one makes significant cuts in state government spending to balance the budget and free up resources to invest in the most critical functions of state government. The budget reduces the size of state government by eliminating over 1,800 positions, bringing the total reduction over the last two budgets to nearly 4,000 . The budget reduces expenditures for basic state government operations by $272 million. The overall growth in state GPR spending is a modest 3.7% in FY06 and 3.9% in FY07.
Over 90,000 uninsured kids…
Governor Doyle’s budget starts with the central belief that the state should do everything it can to preserve eligibility and benefits for the Wisconsin citizens who depend on the state for health care. Cutting off hundreds of thousands of people from access to health care, like many other states are doing, is shortsighted and only exacerbates a serious problem. Those who lose their coverage are then less likely to receive preventive care, end up with worse health conditions, and utilize emergency rooms rather than doctors’ offices. The costs of their care are usually assumed by the health care industry, and eventually passed on to the businesses and individuals who purchase health insurance.
The budget places assessments on nursing homes and HMOs and uses the money to leverage additional federal funds and then pay back the providers with higher rates. In the current Medicaid environment this is one of the few ways states can attract additional federal dollars and it is a system that many states are adopting.
The budget also transfers $180 million from the Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund to pay for the health care quality initiatives, fund supplemental payments to hospitals (direct graduate medical education, rural hospitals adjustment, pediatric service adjustments, and essential access to city hospital), and help keep hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin residents on medical assistance. The fund currently has a balance of over $700 million and a recent independent analysis suggested it was over funded by as much as $200 million.
Finally, the money from the Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund will be placed in a new Health Quality Fund, along with the proceeds of up to $130 million from the issuance of revenue bonds, to support the critical health services provided by Medicaid. The bonding will attract an additional $177 million in federal revenue to support Wisconsin health care programs. If, however, the current revenue estimates are too conservative, additional state revenue will be used to replace the bonding.
It’s hard to listen to the King of pork barrel spending complaining about the Governor’s plans to work for the best interests of the people of Wisconsin. It must be frustrating for the Republican leadership, so constrained by their Gods, Guns and Gays agenda, to have to listen to such a powerfully uplifting and broad based agenda that puts healthy kids at the top of the list. It must be painful for John Gard to get needled once again by the Governor’s plans to encourage Wisconsin medical research teams to continue leading the way in stem cell research.
Governor Doyle has already made that U-turn John… away from pork barrel spending based on campaign donor payback. Where will we get the money to help the people of Wisconsin? From the money we won’t spend on corporate welfare for greedy cash siphons like Wal-Mart.