June 21, 2011
Budget sets a new course for Wisconsin
By State Representative Dean Knudson
At the heart of the political sweep last fall was the undeniable truth that Wisconsin was in a financial crisis. Wisconsin entered 2011 facing a storm of difficult challenges: job losses, a weak business climate, and a massive deficit. We had been battered by the recession like a ship on the rocks taking on water. Repairs were needed and a new course needed to be set.
Recent budgets were concocted with excessive borrowing, huge tax increases, raiding of segregated funds, and accounting gimmicks. The dangerous practice of spending what you do not have was exposed by the economic recession. Now, the bills have come due on a $3.6 billion budget deficit created by irresponsible government spending. The recently passed budget will save Wisconsin from fiscal disaster without raising taxes or compromising the protection of our most vulnerable citizens.
The need for a reform budget was not imagined, but created by years of irresponsibility. The looming budget deficit demanded reform. The recession has had a severe impact resulting in an unprecedented reduction in both income and sales tax revenues for the state. Widespread unemployment, layoffs, and salary reductions hiked enrollment and costs in our safety net programs. Medicaid costs alone have increased by $1 billion. Business as usual is no longer an option.
In addition to decreased tax revenues and increasing program costs, the state is now forced to fill in the gaps created by one time federal stimulus money. The stimulus hid much of the extreme overspending present in past budgets. With no new federal money streaming in to save the day this time, Wisconsin must be put on a path towards fiscal responsibility and economic recovery.
After months of discussion, debate, and analysis of constituent input the Assembly passed a budget for 2011-2013 that accomplishes our goal for a better Wisconsin. At the end of the budget cycle we will see the deficit slashed from a ballooning $3.6 billion to the first surplus in decades.
Like the ship on the rocks, it was time for Wisconsin to face reality and address the crisis. Today, with a new crew at the helm, we patched the leaks, bailed out the water, and set a new course for Wisconsin towards a stronger economy, new jobs, and a brighter future.