April 23, 2014

Wisconsin budget surplus could top $911 million (AUDIO)

A new report from the state Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates Wisconsin could be sitting on a $911 million surplus at the end of the current budget biennium in 2015. The review released by the agency on Thursday indicates revenue projections are much higher than previously anticipated, due largely to an almost $893 million increase in estimated tax collections.

In a statement, Governor Scott Walker said the increase is “a sign Wisconsin’s economy continues to grow and add jobs.” Walker also indicated his support for possible tax cut proposals, saying “the additional revenue should be returned to taxpayers because it’s their money, and my administration will work with the Legislature to determine the most prudent course of action.”

AUDIO: Gov. Scott Walker statement (:54)

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) called the report a “reason to celebrate,” noting that it is “my hope that most of the surplus dollars will go toward property tax relief.”

Democrats argued a balanced approach should be used in determining how the surplus is used. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) argued for a “balanced approach that rebuilds the rungs on the ladder of success and provides targeted tax relief and long-term financial security for the middle class,” which would include restoring funding for education and job training cut in the last state budget. Senate Democratic Leader Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) called on Walker and Republicans to use the money to “put the $800 million that was stolen from Wisconsin children’s education back into classrooms across our state.”

Walker will deliver his annual State of the State Address to the Legislature next Wednesday, a speech where he is expected to outline proposals for income and property tax cuts. Republicans, who currently control the Legislature, have indicated in recent weeks that they generally support the idea of creating tax cuts beyond those adopted earlier this session, but were waiting for the LFB to release its estimates before determining what form those might take.