The State of Mediocrity: A Look at Wisconsin’s State Budget

Bruce Murphy:

Wisconsin is not one of the nation’s best-managed states. Such is the conclusion of Governing Magazine in its March cover story. The magazine’s annual report card, done in conjunction with the Pew Center on the States, gives Wisconsin a B-minus, ranking it above just 19 states, including big loser New Hampshire (D-plus).
But 30 states ranked above Wisconsin, including such paragons as Utah and Virginia, which both got an A-minus.
The report ranked states on money (including budget and finances), people (hiring, training, retaining employees), infrastructure (maintenance, capital planning) and information (auditing and evaluation, etc.).
Wisconsin got a black eye for how it is handling state employees. “Hiring freezes, ongoing budget disputes and lagging pay scale help explain why Wisconsin has the second-highest turnover rate in the country for veteran employees,” the story noted.
Readers of this column will recall my questioning whether Gov. Jim Doyle has been cutting state employees at all costs to live up to his campaign promise to slash the total payroll by 10,000 employees. The approach seems to be creating problems. “The state is contracting out for all sorts of things without monitoring them sufficiently,” one high-level state employee told the magazine. Had this sort of thing happened under a Republican governor, Democrats would be crying foul.
The magazine also notes the saga of civil-service employee Georgia Thompson, whose life was made a hell because of an unnecessary prosecution by U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic. True enough, but I question whether this anomaly of a case, which was thrown out on appeal, has led to any turnover.
The story also notes the state’s continuing structural deficit, which has been around forever, probably since Jim Doyle had hair, and was estimated at $2.4 billion at the end of fiscal 2007.

It is difficult to see state school spending materially changing in the near term.