The majority report of the Commission identified $456 million in potential savings in one year for state and local governments. The largest chunk of the savings – just over a third – comes from stepped-up efforts in fraud prevention in the supports the state provides for working-class families, such as BadgerCare and food assistance.
Nearly half a billion in savings in just one year would seem like a windfall for Wisconsin. But the minority report of the Commission pointed out several issues with the potential savings, some of which were technical and some philosophical. A large part of the proposed savings may not even be possible, the minority members of the Commission warned:
“[The] report is full of ideas that have already been accomplished, are already being implemented or items over which the decision-making process rests in the hands of the federal or local units of government.”Like the main report from the Commission, the minority report also stressed the importance of achieving savings by addressing fraud in state supports for working-class families. But the minority report also highlighted the potential reducing state costs by capturing new federal dollars to pay for state services. There are ample opportunities to secure additional federal dollars – Wisconsin bypassed opportunities to capture an additional $1.3 billion in federal funds over the current two-year budget period alone, according to a Wisconsin Budget Project analysis of Legislative Fiscal Bureau figures. And that figure will increase given Governor Walker’s recent decision to cease utilizing a $38 million federal grant to implement health care reform in Wisconsin.
Saving taxpayer money and reducing waste shouldn’t be a partisan issue. In addition to making sure that supports for working-class families are carefully administered, we need to identify opportunities for federal money and roll back the unaffordable tax breaks given by the Legislature to the corporate and well-off. Then we can move together towards improving our stewardship of public resources.