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Making Hay While the Sun Still Shines - Spending the Projected State Surplus

Everyone who has followed my blogs know that I am an unabashed liberal. On the cusp of Governor Walker's State of the State Speech and an unprecedented billion dollar surplus for 2015, there isn't much doubt about the focus of his speech. He's already announced that he wants to do some selective spending and tax cutting; now the question is what and where.


From what I understand, most of the states in our fine union, are looking at surpluses after all the 'belt tightening' of the last 5 to 6 years. Therefore, Wisconsin isn't alone in deciding what to do with the 'windfall'. I listened to an economist on NPR and she outlined the approaches that some of what states are considering. Tax cuts rank high on the 'to do' list, especially in the 'Red State World'. But, that is not the only action being considered. Some of the states are looking to put money into programs that suffered during the 'Great Recession', including a number of 'Red States'. Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana is proposing to put more money into K12 education. Other targeted recipients of restored funding, include more money for healthcare, social services, etc. Many of the states are also looking to replenish their 'Rainy Day Funds' since they were seriously depleted during the 'Great Recession'. To decide what to do with the money, creates fertile ground for political maneuvering.


Since the information about Wisconsin's announcement of the surplus came out, I am sure that every special interest group and lobby began immediately salivating over the chance to get their hands on more of the public's money. It wouldn't surprise me if the phone lines to the governor's office along with the legislature, have been ringing off the hook. Of those calling, the special interests on the right probably have the biggest dollar signs in their eyes. Of course the liberal interests are going to make every appeal possible to get their pet programs refunded, but probably to no avail. If any special interests get a 'piece of the pie' it will undoubtedly be Walker's friends on the right who will receive the benefits. I shouldn't need to remind anyone, but this is an election year and campaign money is of a high priority. Just to be clear, if the Democrats and liberals were in power, it would be pretty much the same. It would be liberal special interests and lobbyists who would be fighting for their place at the feeding trough. However, that aside, how should this surplus be viewed?


I think there is only one way to view the surplus, it's a 'one of ' event. After this current huge surplus, I doubt that we'll ever see something of this size again. In a small way it's like winning the lottery and we don't expect to win a lottery every year and neither should the state. Keeping that in mind, then we need to plan fiscally as if it never occurred. To begin with, using the surplus as a justification for a major tax cut doesn't make fiscal sense. Using the surplus to fund the tax cut follows the same logic as taking the $810 million from the feds to build the High Speed Rail between Milwaukee and Madison. Sure we can build it, but the money to maintain after it's been built then becomes a continuous cash outlay each and every year, assuming that the train couldn't generate enough revenue to cover the maintenance. The surplus would either briefly fund new programs, but we still will need taxes to continue after the surplus runs out, unless we cut other programs to keep funding the new priorities. So what should we do with the surplus?


Setting aside my proclivity to spend money on social programs, I think it would be fiscally responsible to do two things; put money into the 'rainy day fund' and retire part of the state's structural debt.


If we've learned anything from the 'Great Recession', it is a given that we will face further recessions in the future. Recessions, just like the one we just experienced, puts a tremendous strain on state resources and services. So why not build up the 'rainy day fund' to help provide a cushion in the future and avoid the steep declines we experienced last time. Also, by reducing our structural debt, we will benefit from from strengthening our fiscal well being and be much more attractive in seeking further funding to finance high cost infrastructure projects. Just as we will experience future recessions, the cost of borrowing money in the future will not always be as cheap as it is now.


Now is the time to set politics aside and do what is fiscally rational. Let's avoid the temptation to spend the projected surplus and plan for the future.


This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

CowDung January 24, 2014 at 09:44 AM
Thanks for the smile, Jim
Bob McBride January 24, 2014 at 09:54 AM
CD, anyone to the right of Russ Feingold is a right wing goon in Keith's world. Don't worry about it. That wasn't the point anyways. The point is he's butt-hurt over the fact that some folks don't recognize him for his martyrdom and self-immolation on behalf of a freaking book coop that didn't pan out.
Bob McBride January 24, 2014 at 10:12 AM
And rather than wasting his time with this "woe is me act" he should be working to get Katy Perry and her rack back here for another sugar-coated T&A performance if he expects a Democratic gubernatorial win this year. ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/21/katy-perry-obama_n_4638948.html
CowDung January 24, 2014 at 10:15 AM
I'm not worried about it at all, Bob. I brought it up only to illustrate the broad brush that Keith often uses to spread his abrasiveness, though he claims to only be responding to those who have attacked him...
J. B. Schmidt January 24, 2014 at 10:16 AM
I would like to take this moment to defend Keith. When I first came to Patch, a racist bigoted homophobe, many of you treated me with kid gloves. Keith on the other hand was forward with his intention to point out that only his ideology was acceptable on these pages. Like that creepy Uncle, unashamed to hug you with a firm reach around, I was well aware of his true intentions. I appreciate his blunt thuggish behavior and understand he only does it in the truest form of selfish love. I have never let his past in the book industry sway my view of him and thanks to him; I have had plenty of hate filled posts of advice to use toward evaluating my own positions. In the end, every malevolent word, every vicious sarcastic attack and every attempt to demean my character has produced the Patchite I am today. So Keith, thank you for being the ill-tempered, venomous grump that solidifies my reasons on being a conservative.
Keith Schmitz January 24, 2014 at 10:23 AM
Talk about projection. This will be good for you whining for a few more hours.
Bob McBride January 24, 2014 at 10:53 AM
I think we've more than fulfilled Keith's craving for attention here. It's a service we provide to emotionally needy members of the community. We are not compensated for doing so, nor do we solicit others to do our work for us. You're welcome, Keith.
Keith Schmitz January 24, 2014 at 11:04 AM
Oh boy, more projection. Bob, there's dachshunds with more self-awareness than you have. What attention? Thanks to the right wing nuts, this blog is practically a ghost town. It's the cheap fun of taunting the arrogant. I hate myself for it, but it is irresistible. If you think I'm doing it for the attention, then stop giving it to me. So simple even a caveman can do it.
Lyle Ruble January 24, 2014 at 11:11 AM
This one of the reasons that I appreciated the Bob McBrides of this world. I had ignored this Welcome New Neighbors program and initially thought that it was a pure volunteer program. Bob's cynical nature motivated him to look deeper and uncovered the truth about the program; that it was a carefully crafted program for commercial interests. That shed a whole new light on the program causing me to think twice about whether I support such efforts. This has led me to look closer at the value of such. In Shorewood, like most other communities, we have other priorities that also need tax payers funds. One of the questions I ask is the 'pot hole' test. If the money spent on one of these 'feel good programs' could be of more value by filling a few more pot holes? ....... Intelligent people, no matter their political and world views are an asset and resource it we only take the time to utilize them.
Bob McBride January 24, 2014 at 11:17 AM
It's a site, Keith, not a blog. It's a ghost town because AOL pretty much abandoned it. There are communities other than Shorewood within the WI network of sites. For as long as you've been around here, you still seem to struggle with that concept. It's not that complicated. You love the attention, even if it means you have to make an ass of yourself in the process of getting it - which you do. And you posted the above twice. Time to let the steam pouring out of your ears dissipate and get back to whatever it is you do to fill the rest of your day there. We gave you what you wanted. Now run along and be ignored over at JSOnline or Colectiva or wherever.
Lyle Ruble January 24, 2014 at 11:18 AM
@J.B. Schmidt......I have been happy every since you decided to participate on the Patch. Just as I promote the social progressive positions you have become my counterpoint helping to keep me in check. I think we help hone each others positions and the readers, in general, benefit from the process of our exchanges. This is precisely why I respect what you write and you have proven that your more than capable of holding your own and challenge me to be a better thinker. It is apparent to me you care enough that you're not one of those who hits and runs, but hang in there until the issue is fully vetted. All I have to say is a heart felt 'thank you'.
Jay Sykes January 24, 2014 at 11:44 AM
This place is starting to sound like the old SNL spoof on 'Point /Counterpoint' ;again '_______' you ignorant slut... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttqgwlCsXZM
Randy1949 January 24, 2014 at 11:57 AM
@Keith: "The only people you get along with on this site are the right wing goons, Jay Sykes and Lyle." I kind of get along with Bob McBride. We disagree mightily on many things, but he's okay. I'm not a right-wing goon by any stretch. And for the record, I think that trying to keep the old Harry Schwartz Bookshop open was an admirable thing. It didn't work out, but neither did many businesses prosper in the Great Recession. Bringing up the bookshop is a low blow, and I wish certain folks would quit doing it. Calling a person a thief over a failed business destroys civility.
Randy1949 January 24, 2014 at 12:07 PM
@Bob McBride -- "I was referring to Cindy Whos-it." That would be Cindy Kilkenny, who was nice enough to email me a file of her book about Scott Walker that I could convert to use on my e-reader. I read it to broaden my political perspective. Just because people differ politically doesn't mean we're not decent folks.
Randy1949 January 24, 2014 at 12:13 PM
@Pale Rider (Death) -- As you said _most_ businesses pay back their loans/tax breaks and it turns out to have been a good investment for the taxpayer. Others turn out to be not such a great investment, and we all suck it up. By the way, I loved you in all the Terry Pratchett books!
Randy1949 January 24, 2014 at 12:33 PM
Government is supposed to spend money wisely, since it's 'our' money to begin with and we're supposed to get the best benefit out of it. Lot's of people make promises that turn out to be overly optimistic and impossible to keep. How many businesses get a tax incentive (which is really just another way of giving them a loan) and then fail to generate the promised payback? It's like any other 'investment' -- you take your chances.
CowDung January 24, 2014 at 02:11 PM
Apparently there are an above average number of potholes on Lyle's street...
Randy1949 January 24, 2014 at 03:41 PM
All the BS from both sides?
Jay Sykes January 24, 2014 at 04:02 PM
BS.... from ? Potholes ? Randy ? .... I think that's a-holes....
Randy1949 January 24, 2014 at 04:08 PM
I was responding to a comment from Pale Rider which seems to have been deleted since I responded. It read: "Just think of all the potholes we could have filled with...forget it" Horse manure and BS could fill a lot of potholes. Not as well as hot asphalt, but you get the point.
Bob McBride January 24, 2014 at 04:11 PM
Which ass's fault?
Randy1949 January 24, 2014 at 04:14 PM
Yep. Whose silly asphalt is that?
Randy1949 January 24, 2014 at 04:32 PM
Sorry I resurrected it, but its absence made my response look like a giant non requiter.
Lyle Ruble January 24, 2014 at 05:43 PM
@CowDung......Actually the village resurfaced my street last fall. However, there's plenty still left in the village. The 'pot hole test' is a metaphor for prioritizing needs.
CowDung January 24, 2014 at 05:46 PM
Apparently it worked for you. Hopefully they'll get around to my street before too long...
Lyle Ruble January 24, 2014 at 05:53 PM
@Pale Rider.....I don't mean to be necessarily exclusionary, but compared to the rest that I mentioned, your a relative newcomer. Bob's role is the resident skeptic, Jay is the numbers guy, CowDung is the technical guy, Randy is the moderate progressive, J.B, represents the evangelical social right and Keith is the 'wild eyed' aging hippy. My role has been pretty much to get discussions going. After I get to know you better and your style and thinking, I'll let you know where I see you fit. ........ We've had some real doozers over the last four years on both sides of the great divide. One thing I can say is that I wouldn't hesitate to sit down with any of the North Shore, Greendale and Waukesha bunch and break bread.
Bob McBride January 24, 2014 at 05:53 PM
I'd settle for the ice heaves leveling off a bit right now. It's like off-roading everywhere...
Bob McBride January 24, 2014 at 05:55 PM
I miss alan...
Bob McBride January 24, 2014 at 06:03 PM
that be him.
Bob McBride January 24, 2014 at 07:25 PM
I wasn't sure if he was still with us. One nice thing about the hat. If you want to avoid him, you can spot him at a good distance.

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