March 17, 2015

More Bad News For Working Families in Scott Walker’s Broken Promises Budget

The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau yesterday released an analysis of Scott Walker’s budget that shows it raises taxes and fees by $48 million and raids segregated funds by more than $300 million, part of another round of broken campaign promises for the governor and presidential candidate who has been rated America’s most factually-challenged politician.

But Scott Walker’s "Broken Promises" budget doesn’t just raise taxes and raid segregated funds; it also includes policy items and fails to use Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, two more promises broken in Walker’s first term and now broken again.


In his first campaign for governor, Walker signed Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform Taxpayer Protection Pledge which promised he would "oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes."  

But contrary to his tax-cutting rhetoric, Walker’s first budget raised taxes on seniors and working families by nearly $70 million and raised fees by $133 million, including a massive increase in fees for the UW System. Walker’s tax hike was enough to merit a “Promise Broken” fromPolitiFact Wisconsin in May of 2011, which wrote that Walker broke the ATR pledge because he not only failed to oppose tax increases, but he was the one who proposed them.

Walker’s current budget doubles down on the broken promise by would increasing taxes by $39.4 million and fees by another $8.6 million, according to a summary released by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Segregated Funds

Back in 2010, Walker promised that he would "end the practice of raiding segregated state funds to pay for other programs. If taxpayer revenue is collected for a specific purpose such as building and maintaining roads, it should be used for that purpose and that purpose only."

But it was another promise not long for this world – a July 2011 memo from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau showed that Walker’s first budget transferred more than $400 million in funds to “be used for purposes other than those for which the fund has traditionally been used.” That was good for another “Promise Broken” from PolitiFact.

With Wisconsin facing a self-inflicted $2.2 billion deficit as he crafted his budget, Walker decided the segregated funds broken promise was worth recycling, and uses more than $300 million in segregated funds for purposes other than their original intention, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Policy Items in Budget

This is one of Scott Walker’s most egregious broken promises. Even though he promised to "strip policy and pork projects from the state budget” because “the budget process should be about funding essential government services based on the taxpayers’ ability to pay,” Walker has consistently used his budget to ram through contentious non-fiscal policy items, and his latest budget is no different.

This time around, Walker’s budget: includes a statewide expansion of unaccountable voucher schools; rolls back teacher licensure requirements; removes legislative oversight of the scandal-plagued Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation; eliminates the power of the Boards at the Departments of Natural Resources and Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection; effectively ends the state’s Stewardship Program; mandates drug testing for working Wisconsinites, to include veterans, soldiers, and military spouses, to receive unemployment benefits and food assistance.

Walker’s first budget contained more than 45 non-fiscal items including a proposal to defund Planned Parenthood, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, earning Walker a “Promise Broken” from PolitiFact back in April of 2011. That’s in addition to Walker’s most famous non-fiscal budget item, his contentious Act 10 legislation that eliminated collective bargaining for public employees through a “budget repair bill.”


Any way you count it, Scott Walker has been a fiscally irresponsible “borrow and spend” governor – his latest budget borrows nearly a billion dollars and delays more than $100 million in debt repayment. But back in 2010 he promised to count it a particular way, using Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). Using GAAP, Wisconsin is forecast to have a nearly $2 billion deficit by the end of the current biennium.

In his first campaign, Walker promised he would "require the use of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) to balance every state budget, just as we require every local government and school district to do."

According to PolitiFact Wisconsin’s “Promise Broken” rating in November 2011, a document prepared by the Walker administration shows that, “based on GAAP accounting, the state would have been left with a deficit of $3 billion by 2012-13 under Walker's budget. That compares to the $2.9 billion GAAP deficit he inherited at the end of Doyle's term, the state's financial statements show… The governor's office told us to judge this promise based on the next budget -- for 2013-15. Walker, though, promised to balance "every” state budget on the more stringent GAAP principles. He did not do that in his first budget.”

And he didn’t do it in his second budget either; the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the state GAAP deficit would grow to $2.64 billion from $2.06 billion with Walker’s second budget.

Unfortunately the third time wasn’t the charm. The Department of Administration’s “Budget in Brief” shows a $1.96 billion deficit using GAAP by the end of 2017.

March 4, 2015

Scott Walker's Iowa Caucus Budget Would Sell Off Wisconsin's State Parks

Lost amid the contentious Right to Work legislation being fast-tracked through the legislature this week as Scott Walker campaigns for president around the country are Joint Finance Committee hearings on Walker's "Iowa Caucus Budget," but the sweeping changes Walker has proposed to the state Department of Natural Resources are starting to get the attention they deserve as even Republican legislators are questioning the plans, which include a proposal to sell naming rights to our state parks.

Scott Walker might not live here anymore as he campaigns for president around the country, merely "visiting" Wisconsin from time to time, but millions of Wisconsinites value our conservation heritage and the preservation of our state park system -- so Walker's Iowa Caucus Budget proposal that guts funding for state parks is already cause for alarm. In addition to the fee increases proposed in Walker's budget, DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp yesterday told members of the Joint Finance Committee that the state was looking at several other options to generate revenue, like selling naming rights to our natural resources to offset Walker's cuts. 

Exclusive access for corporate donors to Wisconsin's farm and forest land and valuable state real estate has been a hallmark of Scott Walker's time in office. Scott Walker proposed in his 2013 budget changes to state law to allow foreign companies and individuals to buy large tracts of land, like farms, that are over 640 acres in size. Republicans and Democrats alike voiced concerns, and the proposal was deleted by the Joint Finance Committee. The Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation also opposed the changes. On his way out of office to a cushy lobbying job in Washington, D.C., Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen greenlit the Walker land proposal.

Another provision of the 2013 budget allowed the Walker administration to sell off state assets without a competitive bidding process. Included for sale are telecommunications towers and related infrastructure around the state, administrative buildings in Madison and Milwaukee, the Northern Wisconsin Center in Chippewa Falls, and land surrounding the state Department of Transportation building that has been described as prime commercial real estate.

Also in 2013 a group calling itself United Sportsmen of Wisconsin, a Tea Party group funded by the Koch brothers and headed by a Walker political insider, was almost the recipient of a $500,000 grant inserted by then-Rep. Scott Suder into the state budget for the purpose of promoting hunting, fishing and trapping in Wisconsin. United Sportsmen was found to have no history of outdoors training; their record more closely mirrored a lobbying organization for Republican interests and several prominent board members were found to have donated to Republican candidates and causes. It was only after United Sportsmen falsified its application to the state and at a hearing before the Joint Finance Committee in stating that they had a federal 501(c)(3) nonprofit designation did the Walker administration finally cancel the grant.

And following a $700,000 donation to Wisconsin Club for Growth for Scott Walker in exchange for access to the legislative process, the out-of-state mining company Gogebic Taconite was able to draft their own legislation, with assistance from the Governor's Office, on a controversial mining proposal that endangered Wisconsin's natural resources. Just last week, however, the company announced it was no longer going to continue with the project and they would not create the jobs promised.

"As someone who simply 'visits' Wisconsin as he campaigns for president, Scott Walker might not remember that our state parks are vital to Wisconsin's conservation heritage," Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate said Wednesday. "Are we going to see Donald Trump Trail or Koch Springs? McRib Mountain? This is absurd. The people who do live here in Wisconsin, and love our state, deserve better than Walker's short-sighted giveaways to corporate special interests that threaten our state's richest assets, our natural resources."