Governor's Budget Proposal Would Run Structural Deficit - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Governor's Budget Proposal Would Run Structural Deficit


LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) -- State lawmakers gathered at La Crosse's Hogan Administrative Center Monday for a public hearing on the Governor's proposed state budget. 

Reps. Jill Billings (D-La Crosse), Steve Doyle (D-Onalaska) and Chris Danou (D-Trempealeau) took questions from an audience of about 65 people and also heard from superintendent of La Crosse schools Randy Nelson. 

Many in the audience voiced their concern about an increase in state taxpayer funding to private, voucher schools. 

But Doyle and Billings also took the time to weigh in the projected structural balance of the Governor's proposal. 

If Gov. Scott Walker's budget passes as written, the state would see its general fund substantially reduced -- from $422.7-million at the end of fiscal year 2013 in June to $43.1-million at the end of fiscal year 2015. 

Both sides of the political aisle are leery of the increase in spending. 

"Deficits are never positive in my mind," Billings said. 

"After everything that was done in the last budget to get rid of the deficit we had, we don't want to go right back into a deficit again," said Rep. Lee Nerison (R-Westby). 

The Governor's proposed budget would run what UW-La Crosse political science professor John Kovari said is a "structural deficit" because the budget spends $188.2 million more in state money than it takes in. 

"The state still finishes with cash," Kovari said of that $43.1-million total. "But the budget is reducing the level of money the state actually has." 

 "We really have the huge problem at the federal level of coming up short of revenue," Doyle said. "We don't need to replicate that at the state level. So once we got to the point of having our budget balanced, we needed to keep going in that direction." 

"I'm disappointed to hear us again talking about deficits," Doyle said. 

Doyle added one area of spending that could be eliminated is the Governor's proposed $343-million tax cut, which he said "amounts to a cup of coffee a day" for the average family. 

The proposed tax break would mean an extra $100 next year for a family of four making roughly $80-thousand annually. 

Billings said she agrees the modest tax cut is not worth it. 

"An income tax cut is a good sound bite," Billings said. "But in reality it's not a lot of money for families -- especially for middle class families who the tax cut was supposed to benefit the most."  

Nerison said he's more or less a fan of the tax cut and added savings to avoid a deficit can be found elsewhere. 

"Everybody comes in now that they saw (the budget) is in the black," Nerison said. "Everybody comes into the office saying 'we have to have a little more (money), we need a little more,' and everyone's asking for money," Nerison said. "But the state's money only goes so far. So you have to prioritize." 

The Governor's proposal is currently being reviewed by the legislature's joint finance committee, which is holding its next public hearing on the budget Wednesday in Lake Delton. 

Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette), the committee's co-chair, said the budget will be voted on in the assembly and then the senate following its passage in the joint finance committee. 

Nygren said last week he expects the assembly to vote on the budget by "early June." 

The new fiscal year begins July 1. 


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