July 1 marked the beginning of a new fiscal year for the State of Wisconsin. That means we are now halfway through the 2011-13 biennium, the period covered by the most recent state budget. As you may recall, that was the piece of legislation that made unprecedented spending cuts in a number of key areas, such as K-12 schools, health, care, aid to local government, post-secondary education, and other categories. It also brought tax changes that cost some of the state’s lowest-income families money, while giving breaks to corporations and some of the wealthiest households.
Over the course of this week and next, we will be publishing a series of blog posts examining how Wisconsin is faring in these key areas at the midpoint of the biennium, in hopes of illuminating the impact of the substantial spending cuts that have been made—cuts that could have been smaller had they been accompanied by measures to generate additional revenue. More importantly, we aim to assess where we stand in order to inform the debate about what direction the state budget should take from this point forward. Budget areas we will be looking at in this series include schools; taxes; jobs; health care; highways; communities; and UW/Tech Colleges.
The Governor will introduce his 2013-15 budget proposal early next year, but work on the next biennial budget has already begun, as state agencies prepare the budget requests that they will submit in September to the Department of Administration. The next budget could be another difficult one, particularly if Congress approves significant cuts in federal aid to the states.
We hope policymakers will take a careful look at what has taken place over the past year as they prepare to begin a new round of budget discussions. We urge them to ask whether our infrastructure can withstand another two years of the “cuts-only” approach that shaped the current budget, or if Wisconsin’s families and communities would be better served by a balanced approach that combines carefully targeted spending cuts with reasonable revenue increases, and at the very least does not dig the hole deeper with tax breaks that undermine the sorts of investments that will truly be effective for long-term job creation.
This series of posts is just one of the ways the Wisconsin Budget Project aims to help broaden awareness and discussion of state budget issues. We encourage you to sign up to receive occasional emails from us about current developments on fiscal matters in Wisconsin.