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Analyst: Wisconsin’s Severe Budget Cuts Aren’t Necessary

PHOTO: A report from the non-partisan Wisconsin Budget Project says the state could avoid the deep budget cuts proposed by the Walker administration by doing away with tax breaks the state can no longer afford, and by accepting federal assistance to expand the state's BadgerCare program. Photo credit: WI Legislature
PHOTO: A report from the non-partisan Wisconsin Budget Project says the state could avoid the deep budget cuts proposed by the Walker administration by doing away with tax breaks the state can no longer afford, and by accepting federal assistance to expand the state's BadgerCare program. Photo credit: WI Legislature
May 18, 2015

MADISON, Wis. - New estimates from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau show there will be no additional tax revenue to help lawmakers avoid the deep budget cuts proposed by Governor Scott Walker. The director of the non-partisan Wisconsin Budget Project, Jon Peacock, says there's a way around what he calls 'harmful cuts' that go too deep.

"It could be done pretty easily," says Peacock. "Simply by stopping the phase-in or the expansion of two tax breaks that we can no longer afford, and by accepting federal financial assistance to expand BadgerCare."

Peacock says the state could free up $226 million by capping a newly-proposed corporate tax break and another $211 million by halting the expansion of a property tax credit, which he says does little to help most Wisconsinites.

According to Peacock, the state could save about $345 million by expanding access to BadgerCare for adults with low-incomes, which would qualify the state for a much larger share of federal Medicaid funding. But Governor Walker has consistently rejected the idea of accepting federal money.

"The governor's national political ambitions do complicate this," he says. "Sooner or later, the state is going to see the light and realize that we really need to bring back to Wisconsin the dollars that state taxpayers have been sending to Washington."

Peacock says the changes suggested by his group could free up a total of around $782 million simply by stopping the new tax breaks and taking the federal financial assistance.

"What's been encouraging is for the last couple of months, legislators in both parties have been saying that the governor's budget cuts much too far," Peacock says. "Of course, they're looking at polling data that shows that those cuts are very unpopular."

Peacock says by reallocating resources, legislators could support the state's excellent public schools, a university system that drives innovation, and improve access to health care for the workforce.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI