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Fiscal Bureau Projects $385 Million Surplus at End of 2017-19 Biennium

By John Forester | January 19, 2018

From WisPolitics.com …

JFC Co-chair Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, hailed the new revenue numbers released Wednesday, but isn’t committing just yet to a bill that would boost state aid to rural school districts.

“I think we have to look at all of our priorities,” she told WisPolitics.com. “There are a lot of bills on the table that a lot of people consider really important.”

Fellow JFC Co-chair John Nygren last week unveiled a plan that would pump an additional $6.4 million into the state’s sparsity aid program. The bill also includes a plan that would allow low-spending school districts to pull in more revenue from taxpayers. Darling said last week she wanted to see new revenue projections before commiting to the plan.

Darling said today she still wants to discuss the proposal with the Senate GOP caucus and there are a number of other priorities pending before the Legislature that would spend more money. That includes a proposed $6.8 million campaign to attract workers to Wisconsin, she said.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau today upped its projected ending balance for the 2017-19 budget by $137.5 million with revenue projections for the two-year period improving slightly.

That takes the total projected surplus to $385.2 million.

Along with the increase of $76.3 million in tax collections and another $1.7 million more in departmental revenues, the nonpartisan LFB is projecting a $97.7 million drop in appropriations.

The majority of the spending decrease, the agency said, is due to re-estimates on the necessary amount to fund general fund debt service.

Of the projected increase in tax collections, $38.2 million would be transferred to the budget stabilization fund, if the expectations hold.

Gov. Scott Walker touted the numbers as “further proof that we are achieving positive results for Wisconsin families.”

“Today’s report shows our economy is strong, and it shows our expenses are down because we are committed to being good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” he said. “We are working and winning for Wisconsin.”

Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, meanwhile, knocked the guv’s past budget decisions and wrote off the surplus as a “minor” increase largely due to one-time savings from the debt refinancing.

“With increased spending commitments for cash payments to FoxConn and the continued refusal to expand Medicaid, Republicans have left the state fiscally unprepared for slower economic times,” he said.

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