New numbers from the state’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau show Wisconsin could end the year with a $283 million budget shortfall.
The numbers are more than double the $132 million shortfall Governor Scott Walker’s administration projected in November. That’s in addition to a roughly $2.2 billion deficit the state is facing in the next budget biennium, based on current agency requests.
Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said in a statement that “Wisconsin will finish the biennium with a balanced budget. We have a proven track record of keeping the state’s fiscal house in order. We will empower agency heads to use all available tools to live within their means and continue their prudent management of agency resources.”
Joint Finance Committee co-chairs, state Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette), said in a statement that the numbers reflect the $2 billion Republicans returned to taxpayers. They also noted that the LFB is projecting healthy economic growth and in the next biennium.
Democrats used the report to criticize the governor for heading to Iowa this weekend, where he’s expected to address a conservative event as he eyes a potential 2016 bid for the Republican presidential nomination. State Senator Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) said that “Wisconsin taxpayers are left wondering why he’s not more focused on fixing the $283 million deficit he created. Given the seriousness of this situation, we need a full-time Governor who is committed to solving the challenges here at home.”
Meanwhile, the state Department of Administration released a report late Friday from the Department of Revenue, which disputed some of the LFB projections. The memo claims a DOR review shows revenue collections for the 2015 fiscal year will be $99 million more than what the Fiscal Bureau estimated. The numbers also don’t reflect a $25 million gaming revenue payment the Potawatomi had been withholding from the state, due to the ongoing debate over a proposed Kenosha casino. Walker rejected the casino project on Friday, clearing the way for the tribe to resume making payments.