State budget deficit swells to $2.5 billion
Figure underscores massive challenge facing lawmakers and next governor
e-mail print By Jason Stein of the Journal Sentinel
July 9, 2010 |(143) COMMENTS
Madison — The state's yawning budget hole has swelled to $2.5 billion, underscoring the massive challenge that awaits the next governor and Legislature, a new report released Friday shows.
The projections by the Legislature's nonpartisan budget office show the expected shortfall for the 2011-'13 budget has grown by $462 million from the just over $2 billion that was expected a year ago.
It is one of the biggest projected shortfalls of the past decade, nearly as large as the $2.9 billion deficit that Gov. Jim Doyle faced in his first budget in 2003.
The state has survived other harsh budgets in recent years by relying on billions of dollars in one-time money from the federal government or pots of state cash including the transportation fund, but this time those relatively easy solutions will be tougher to find, said Mark Bugher, former secretary of the state Department of Administration.
"(The next governor) and Legislature are going to have significant challenges because the day of reckoning has arrived," Bugher said. "They are going to have to face up to the notion of cutting spending pretty dramatically or raising fees and taxes or a little bit of both."
The Legislative Fiscal Bureau report showed the potential deficit increased because taxes and fees aren't growing as quickly as expected and because lawmakers approved some modest additional spending and tax cuts at the end of the legislative session in the spring.