The “Wisconsin is in Deficit” Lie Resurfaces

For many Wisconsin Democrats, they just can’t keep a good talking point down.

Last week, Gov. Scott Walker gave his seventh “State of the State Address” to a joint session of the state legislature. As to be expected, partisan cheering or jeering from individual legislators came with whatever party they happened to belong to. Republicans loved the speech, Democrats hated it; each with their own set of competing talking points.

For Republicans, that meant agreeing with the idea that all is well, but lament over the upcoming fight over transportation spending. Democrats; powerless in Wisconsin since 2011, tried to convey a viewpoint that Wisconsin is circling the toilet because the state isn’t taxing and spending

K-12 education has been “robbed” (Robbed!) of $1 billion in aid they claim. (Never mind the fact they had Act 10 to achieve cost-savings.) The UW-System is in ruins; though admissions records are being set at some schools.

But the one talking point that truly takes the cake is the idea that the state has a $700 million deficit. An example of how this was portrayed, can be found in any number of press releases from Democratic lawmakers, as shown by state Rep. Lisa Subeck (D-Madison).

Once again, rather than honestly assessing the condition of our state and laying out an agenda that would put Wisconsin back on track, the Governor continues to ignore reality and paints an artificially rosy picture. The facts are indisputable: Wisconsin has the most diminished middle class in the country. We have had below average job growth in every year that Governor Walker has been in office, and we now face a $700 million budget deficit.

In reality, Wisconsin does not have a deficit at all. What it has is a $700 million wish list from the state bureaucracy. The entire concept of a “deficit” is nothing more than a made-up media story which is generated every two years whenever the state Department of Administration announces the discrepancies between agency requests and state revenue estimates.

This sentiment was echoed by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance when they were first made public in late November 2016. Todd Berry, president of the organization, told Wisconsin Public Radio the following:

“Of course, the requests are not going to be granted,” Berry said. “If one agency asked for a trillion dollars, pumping it through this exercise, the headline would read, ‘State to run $1 trillion deficit,’ and, of course, that’s not going to happen.”

It’s a lot like one’s own household budget. You might want to spend $70,000 annually, but your household income may limit your ability to spend at $60,000. Does that mean you have a $10,000 “budget deficit?” No, it means you need to prioritize what’s important and become more realistic in your demands. The way legislative Democrats are putting, the state bureaucracy matters more than the citizens of Wisconsin; who in their eyes clearly haven’t been taxed enough.

This is now the second-straight Wisconsin state budget legislative Democrats have played these word games with the idea of state having a deficit. In 2014-2015, media headlines exploded about a “$2.2 Billion Deficit” which were quickly debunked multiple times; such as when then-presidential candidate Donald Trump touted it in the lead-up to Wisconsin’s 2016 presidential primary.

Just because it’s said enough, doesn’t mean it’s correct.