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Friday, March 16, 2012

If They Repeat, "Walker Balanced The Budget" Enough Times, Will His Massive Deficit Magically Go Away?

How many times have you read newspaper editorials, blog posts, comments and letters to editors from folks claiming Walker balanced the budget? And I like the way they link it into nearly every state issue over and over again and do it with a straight matter-of-fact face. You know they say, "Walker did not raise taxes AND he balanced the budget," or "Walker didn't lay off any public sector workers AND he balanced the budget" or "Walker cut spending in order to balance the budget." It's practically a daily ritual.

A recent Milwaukee Sentinel editorial repeated the "balanced budget" assumption several times to settle a host of other false arguments exactly the same way in defense of Scott Walker's policies.

But. Nooo duuudes. You can say it as many times as you like, but Walker has not balanced the budget.

Wiscnews Excerpt:
So how about the deficit? On Jan. 11, Bob Lang, director of the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, sent a letter to Assemblyman Jon Richards, D-Milwaukee. Lang stated: “In the Budget in Brief that accompanied the Governor’s 2011-2013 budget message, the administration projected that the GAAP deficit for the state will be $2.99 billion in 2011-12 and $3.02 billion in 2012-13.”

Despite cutting 12,500 public sector jobs in 2011 (Look mom! No lay-offs) and kicking thousands of children and seniors off BadgerCare, Walker's own projections show he is running the same structural deficits they crucified Jim Doyle for. He called Doyle a liar for using the cash accounting method to make the budget appear balanced, yet Walker is doing the same thing - but even worse. Say what you will about Doyle, but he did not have to "save" the state from a problem that never existed.

What is it these people aren't getting ...or is it just a matter of media engineering and political convenience? One way to think how conservatives think about Wisconsin's annual budgets is to watch the video below to see how Republican senate candidate, Tommy Thompson, handled a media question about the deficit he handed to Scott McCallum and eventually passed to Jim Doyle.

So why can't everyone be on the same page about this? It's either Thompson, McCallum, Doyle AND Walker are all running structural deficits OR, they all balanced the budget as Wisconsin’s Constitution mandates it. I'd be good with either premise as the official declaration since they all are calculated using the same accounting method. But not the mixing and matching we have now.

So why does the media continue to describe the budgets of previous administrations as deficits while Walker's budget as balanced? Could it be that Walker needed a massive deficit, at least on paper, to give his media-endorsed budget agenda a cause? Could it be that without that great big deception, Walker's entire Act 10 Budget repair bill would have had no purpose for being the solution to a problem that never existed?

I think so.


James Wigderson said...

You do realize that there is a difference between GAAP, which has never been applied to Wisconsin, and the current method of budget accounting that the state uses? That you're comparing apples and oranges? And that if we compare Walker's budget to Doyle's budget using the budget accounting that is generally accepted, we would find Walker's budget to be balanced while Doyle's was not. If we move to GAAP accounting, something advocated by conservatives but not Democrats in the legislature, we would see the budget deficits described above, buit in comparison Doyle would look much worse.

Lou Kaye said...

I agree. It's apples and oranges. At this point, I don't care whether Doyle or Thompson failed to balance a budget. That's water under the bridge. I'm more concerned about the now. That Walker, for whatever reason is using one accounting method to report projected deficits of $3 billion to the federal government, while the media and Walker himself on other occasions claim his budget is balanced using a different accounting method. So which is it?

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