By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON – Better than expected.
That’s been the story of state revenue and surplus in Wisconsin over the past year and a half.
An improving economy has pushed the state’s surplus up to $759.2 million, according to the Wisconsin Department of Administration State Controller’s Office’s Annual Fiscal Report released Monday. That’s up nearly $90 million from the last budget estimate earlier this year, and an increase of $274.5 million higher than the $484.7 million projected in the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s 2013 re-estimates in January.
Word of the better-than expected balance, which doesn’t take into account the hundreds of millions of dollars in state structural debt, follows on the heels of last week’s announcement of a proposed $100 million property tax cut, pitched by Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislative leaders.
The Legislature is scheduled to take up the bill on Tuesday and, thanks to the higher balance, the measure is expected to draw bipartisan support. The tax cut would shave about $13 off the median tax bill in Wisconsin.
“When we took office two years ago, we said we would be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money, and this report shows we’re on the right track,” Walker said in a statement.
What a difference a couple of years make. When Walker took office in early 2011, the state faced a $3.6 billion budget shortfall.
Democrats on Tuesday continued to blame Walker for the budget surplus, charging that the $759.2 million balance was the result of draconian cuts to the state’s public education budget. But Democratic leadership signaled they would probably support the property tax cut.
Walker said the Republicans’ “tough, but prudent, decisions are paying off for Wisconsin families.”
A bigger balance means $153.2 million more into the state’s rainy day fund, amounting to a total of $278.5 million in a reserve that was decimated during the Great Recession years.
“Our latest deposit of $153 million into the state’s rainy day fund is the largest in state history, and the $278 million balance of the fund is also the largest ever,” Walker noted.
Contact M.D. Kittle at [email protected]