MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s budget forecast dipped slightly Monday, but the latest projection still calls for the state to collect about $6.9 billion more than anticipated by the end of June.
The projection from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates that taxes collected over the next two years will be down about $755 million, or about 1% less than the previous forecast made four months ago. Taking into account other short-term cost savings, the surplus shrank from $7.1 billion to nearly $6.9 billion.
The new projection comes as lawmakers, Gov. Tony Evers and others are trying to strike a deal on a new, multibillion-dollar aid plan for local governments ahead of a vote Wednesday in the state Assembly.
The new forecast also comes ahead of votes in coming weeks over tax cuts, funding for K-12 schools and the University of Wisconsin System and a host of other priorities and programs as lawmakers piece together the next two-year state budget.
Republicans who control the Legislature have tried to temper excitement over the surplus. The Republican co-chairs of the Legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee said the latest downward estimate confirms that the Legislature is on the right track in creating a “cautious budget.”
“The re-estimates reflect the current economic environment we are in and the reality we face over the next three years,” Sen. Howard Marklein and Rep. Mark Born said in a joint statement. “In response to this reality, we will continue to craft a responsible budget that is made for Wisconsin.”
No matter the spin, the surplus is jaw-dropping and more than the state has ever seen before.
Both Evers and Republicans have proposed tax cuts that would cost billions of dollars, but they have yet to agree on what exactly to cut and by how much.
Republicans want to move toward a flat income tax, while Evers has proposed tax cuts targeting the middle class. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has said he wants to cut taxes by “significantly” more than $3.4 billion, while the Evers proposed cutting about $1.5 billion in taxes.
Evers has also called for $2.6 billion more for K-12 education, an amount that Republicans have dismissed as unrealistically large. Republicans have already voted to kill more than 500 parts of the $104 billion two-year budget Evers proposed, including measures to start a paid family leave program and expand Medicaid coverage.
Budget negotiations have been ongoing behind closed doors. The Legislature’s budget-writing committee is meeting this month to take votes on the next spending plan, which will likely be passed in late June or early July.