This week’s news was dominated by the inability of our leaders in Washington D.C. to come to an agreement on a budget, resulting in a government shutdown. Combined with the shutdown of the Minnesota state government two years ago, we know that gridlock can be an all too common problem for those seeking a budget agreement.
Given the current situation in our nation’s capital and the history in our neighboring state, it is all the more reason to take pride in Wisconsin’s tradition of working together and enacting common-sense reforms. Not only have the past three state budget bills been passed and signed into law on time, but our state also has sound mechanisms in place that allow us to avoid government shutdowns.
In addition to getting our budget work done on time, under the budget bills passed since 2011 by the State Legislature and signed into law by the Governor, we have been successful in turning a $3.6 billion deficit into a budget surplus. Due to prudent budget decisions, there was $670 million left over following the end of the two-year budget cycle on June 30th, which allowed us to enact a permanent income tax cut. The last state budget also paid back money our state owed because of illegal fund raids and other debts incurred in the 2009-11 budget period. Additionally, our state’s rainy day fund now has a balance of $280 million and deposits have been made in three consecutive years for the first time ever.
Credit rating agencies, economists, and business groups are taking notice of these fiscally responsible decisions. Wisconsin’s bond rating outlook was upgraded by Moody’s in recent years, even as Minnesota and Illinois saw downgrades in their bond ratings. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s predictor of economic activity for the next six months places Wisconsin’s estimated growth rate at the highest in the nation. Meanwhile, many business publications and trade groups continue to improve Wisconsin’s ranking as a place to start and grow a business.
Wisconsin has also reversed the trend of job losses we saw in the late 2000’s and recently had the best quarter for job growth since 1990 during the April to July period with 31,900 new jobs. We are one of 12 states that has a labor force participation rate of 68% or higher. Over 11,000 new business filings have been made with the state since 2011, indicating entrepreneurs and small business owners are gaining confidence in our state’s economy. While these are positive signs, the State Legislature continues to focus on encouraging job creation and economic development, including the recently announced job training initiatives that will be considered during the fall session.
Your thoughts and suggestions on ways to continue moving Wisconsin forward are appreciated. Please visit my website at www.harsdorfsenate.com or feel free to call my office at 1-800-862-1092 or 608-266-7745.