Wisconsin will take in $1.2 billion more than earlier projected, new report estimates

MADISON – Wisconsin is expected to take in $1.2 billion more over three years than earlier projected, according to a report released Tuesday, giving Gov. Tony Evers and lawmakers a bit of bright budget news. 

The coronavirus pandemic has hurt the global economy but hasn’t hit the state’s bottom line as hard as officials have feared. Solid tax collections and help from the federal government have helped boost estimates for what the state is expected to take in, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau

By the summer of 2023, Wisconsin will take in $1.2 billion more than was projected two months ago, the report found. 

As of this summer, the state will have about $1.8 billion in its main account. On top of that, the state will have nearly $1 billion in its rainy-day fund. That puts the state on better-than-expected footing for the next two-year budget cycle, which begins July 1. 

The Democratic governor will release his proposed budget in February and Republicans who control the Legislature will spend the following months rewriting it. Evers can carve up their version of the budget with partial vetoes. 

The Republican co-chairs of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee said in a statement that the state’s finances are in good shape but they recognize that many individuals and businesses are struggling.  

“That is why it is imperative that the next state budget ensures we spend within our means while also funding our priorities, something Wisconsin businesses and families have to do every single day,” said the statement from Sen. Howard Marklein of Spring Green and Rep. Mark Born of Beaver Dam.

Rep. Evan Goyke, a Democrat from Milwaukee who sits on the budget committee, said he was not surprised to learn the state’s revenue was strong.

“I am bullish,” he said. 

While the state has a good starting position, a December report by the nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum warned it could face significant challenges when officials account for calls for more spending for health care programs, schools, universities and prisons. 

Congress will soon consider a $1.9 trillion package from President Joe Biden that would give Wisconsin and other states more aid to deal with the pandemic. If Congress passes a new stimulus package, state officials will have an easier time balancing their budget.

Contact Patrick Marley at patrick.marley@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.