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Lake Geneva Chiropractic

Stormy weather on budget horizon

July 21, 2010 | 07:35 AM
During these warm summer months, inclement weather is always to be expected. We prepare, we plan ahead, and we clean up the aftermath; most importantly, we maintain our resolve to stay strong, even in the face of adversity. Over the last several years, the state of Wisconsin has been experiencing its own stormy weather, in the form of massive budget deficits.

But unfortunately, we haven't done a very good job of preparing and planning for what we know is coming. We got by, but the aftermath of the many past budget storms are far from being cleaned up.

Recently, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau — the agency charged with examining state revenue and expenditures — delivered its economic forecast that the next budget cycle will begin with a $2.5 billion deficit. In other words, the next governor and Legislature, on day one, will be faced with yet another multibillion dollar problem that obviously has yet to be solved.

For years, budgets have been balanced through the use of some state spending reductions, but mostly by gimmicks, account shifts, and most recently, billions of dollars in new tax increases. Yet, with all that, the state checking account remains in the red, and the storm clouds continue to roll in.

The 2009-10 budget was the true testing ground for the use of massive tax hikes in order to balance the budget. Most budgets in the last 10 years have had fewer tax and fee increases, and instead, relied on raiding and shifting hundreds of millions of dollars from once-thought protected accounts into the general fund. It was a maneuver which I have been critical of, and one which should not be repeated.

This time around, there were no more funds to raid and very few options left, thus, the deluge of tax increase plans hit businesses, families, and individuals struggling to make ends meet during a down economy.

Those tax increases were the most significant reason why I voted against the budget, and not surprisingly, failed to produce any kind of real solvency for state government. With a looming budget deficit, the only plan left to be seriously considered is the most simple of all: cut government spending.

As I have said for quite some time, tough decisions are going to have to be made in order to bring fiscal sanity back to the state of Wisconsin. Other states are already doing it, or coming to the realization it has to be done.

The average taxpayer can no longer afford the continued expansion of government, and Wisconsin businesses — the true economic rainmakers of our state — are looking elsewhere for a more serene and stable climate. We may not be able to stop the rains from coming, but at the very least, we can be adequately prepared when they do.

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Even though the Legislature is out session, lawmakers — of both political parties — are, or should be, giving great consideration to the next storm that has a one-hundred percent chance of hitting. I believe there will be proposals to dramatically reduce state government spending, and to be certain, none of those proposals are going to be popular, and some could be rather painful.

But the state can not continue on this course of trying to solve a budget crisis one year, only to have it repeat in the next. To do so is a poor fiscal strategy and leaves the state not only vulnerable to the proverbial rainy day, but also some very severe and stormy weather.

Kedzie can be reached in Madison at P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI, 53707-7882, or by calling toll-free (800) 578-1457. He may be reached in the district at (262) 742-2025 or on-line at www.senatorkedzie.com.

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Walworth County