Capitol Update

by Senator Howard Marklein

February 17, 2023

The Legislature Will Write THE State Budget

On Wednesday, February 15, 2023, Governor Tony Evers delivered his budget address. This is the Governor’s list of ideas. It was not the state budget.
The legislature will write THE state budget as we always do.  The state budget will fund our priorities, address our obligations, cut taxes and prepare Wisconsin for the future. We will continue to protect the state’s checkbook.
We’ve been here before.  Two years ago, the Governor delivered a similar, gargantuan pile of paper full of wish list items, non-fiscal policy and exorbitant spending during his budget address. In the 1800+ pages we got this week, we see a similar litany of ideas that spends a lot of taxpayer money and could, potentially, dig us into a black hole for the future.
Just like last time, the legislature will write the state budget starting from the base budget. This means we will use the last budget’s appropriation amounts as the starting point for the next budget. From there, we will determine where we need to make additional investments, adjustments or create new programs. A wish list approach to budgeting rarely balances.
The last budget was arguably one of the best state budgets in recent history. It was passed with both Republican and Democrat votes. Bipartisan feedback told us that we did a great job of listening, funding our priorities, addressing our obligations and planning for the future. Governor Evers had no choice but to sign the budget we wrote and then campaigned on it as his own all last fall.
We are on the same path that took us to a very good result. For weeks, members of the legislature, especially the Joint Committee on Finance (JFC), have been meeting with stakeholders, holding listening sessions, studying programs, seeking information and doing the research necessary to write the state budget.
We will be holding public hearings and agency briefings to hear from constituents and stakeholders in the coming months. We will be asking a lot of questions, studying the results of past investments and devising plans to address challenges and opportunities.
The budget bill will be skinny. We will not be adding all kinds of non-fiscal policy to the state budget. I firmly believe that policy decisions must be made through the full legislative process that includes bill drafting, co-sponsorship, introduction, a public hearing and committee vote before a vote on the floor. This process allows us to fully vet policy, improve it and receive feedback from the general public before it becomes law rather than burying it in a huge spending bill.
The state budget will also have an eye on the future. Every state budget is biennial, meaning it is designed to fund our government for two years. However, much of the spending is ongoing and if we do not pass a state budget bill that is signed into law, the current budget remains in effect. Therefore, we must craft a state budget that is realistic for future projections and economic changes. We cannot predict everything, but we can take firm steps to protect our checkbook from out-of-control, black-hole spending.
Again, the Governor’s budget address is a list of ideas. It was not the state budget. None of these things are law. If you really like one of his ideas, please let me know. If you don’t like one of his ideas, please let me know.
The bottom-line is that the legislature will write THE state budget and your input is an important part of this discussion. We may not be able to do everything, but we will fund our priorities and address our obligations. Again, a wish list approach to budgeting does not necessarily balance. I will always protect your tax dollars before I sign-off on a state budget.
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.