Better tax collections, refinance boost coffers

Jason Stein and Patrick Marley

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

USA TODAY NETWORK–WISCONSIN

January 18, 2018

MADISON – A new report projected the state budget would reach June 2019 with $385 million in its main account, better than the $248 million that had been previously expected.

“Our economy is strong, consumers are confident and revenues are up $137.5 million,” said Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), co-chairwoman of the Legislature’s budget committee. “It’s clear that our reforms and careful budgeting are working.”

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau said that the improved projection was a result of tax collections coming in $76 million higher than expected and the state spending $98 million less than expected because of favorable debt refinancing.

State tax revenue is doing well enough on other fronts to make up for a $49 million the Walker administration predicts will be lost as a result of the federal tax cuts signed last month by President Donald Trump. The decrease largely results from allowing businesses to immediately deduct some purchases of equipment and other goods.

If these numbers hold, the state will use part of that improvement in the budget to make an estimated $38 million deposit into the state’s rainy day fund. That would bring the total in that fund to $322 million.

These numbers could help lawmakers and Walker to proceed with proposals already before them.

That includes an $80 million plan by the governor to replace the state’s youth prison, Lincoln Hills School for Boys, with a series of smaller institutions around Wisconsin.

Walker and Assembly GOP lawmakers have also put forward a multimillion-dollar plan to help schools in rural areas and districts with smaller budgets.