Capitol Update

by Senator Howard Marklein

March 17, 2023


It's Not A Cut

If your child asks you for a $10 raise for their allowance and you give them $5, is it a cut? 
Your child’s allowance is increasing by $5. They may have wanted the additional $5. But you did not give it to them. Whatever your reasons, you decided to give them a $5 increase.
This makes sense, right? An increase is not a cut.
Unfortunately, in political circles, we often hear that we are “cutting” things when we don’t give an organization, an agency or even a Governor what they want. We might even allocate more money for something, but if it doesn’t rise to the level that they want, they call it a “cut”. An increase is not a cut.  New funds are not cut. A new program is not a cut. Right?
Also, unfortunately, in political circles, we often see organizations, agencies and even Governors request much, much, much more than they actually need to accomplish our mutual goals so that they can point a finger and say that we “cut” something. They set their bar extremely high, knowing full well that it is outrageous, so that they can criticize the legislature and call it a “cut”. Again, an increase is still not a cut.
Some may call this a negotiation technique. Some may say, “you gotta start somewhere.” I say that an increase is still not a cut.
The legislature will be building the state budget from the current base budget. The base budget is our existing foundation. It is the current, ongoing, state spending plan. It includes operating costs and obligations. These operating costs and obligations include personnel, programs that were designed to continue, commitments for buildings, infrastructure and debt.
The base budget was bipartisan. It is the budget that the Governor signed and supported just 18 short months ago. It has been working well for us since it went into effect July 1, 2021. The current base budget kept us in terrific fiscal shape and has set Wisconsin up for success despite a pandemic, a difficult economy and inflation. 
The “Governor’s Budget” is a list of ideas. It is not the budget. When we decide to do something other than the Governor’s idea, we are not “cutting” the Governor’s budget. The Governor’s budget is not law. It is a proposal. It is a list of requests. We cannot “cut” the Governor’s budget because it does not exist.
There are some things we need to do in the next state budget that will add to our base budget. We need to address funding for education. We need to address compensation for state employees in an inflationary economy. We need to fund agencies to meet our obligations. We need to continue to maintain and improve roads. We need to fund our priorities.
However, we will not spend at all of the levels proposed by Governor Evers – this is not a cut.  When we don’t massively increase spending – it’s not a cut. Reasonable increases, responsible new spending and new investments are not a cut.
The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) recently released their independent analysis of the Governor’s Budget Proposal. This analysis confirms that the Governor’s ideas increase spending by 17%. It also confirms that if we were to adopt the Governor’s ideas, our surplus would be gone and we would be in a $3 billion deficit by 2027.  We have worked too hard, together, to put Wisconsin in a terrific financial position only to adopt spending that returns us to massive debts. You don’t want that, right?
So, when the legislature begins crafting the state budget and adding items to the base budget, please remember that we are not “cutting” the budget. The Governor, like your child, may ask for $10. But we, like you, may provide a $5 increase instead. Either way, it’s still more, not less. And it’s not a cut.
As always, please do not hesitate to connect with me to provide input, ideas or to seek assistance.  Send an email to sen.marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov or call 608-266-0703. I want to hear from you.