Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle’s administration on Friday told Republican Governor-elect Scott Walker that he would have to cope with a $2.2 billion deficit in the state’s upcoming two-year budget, but this brighter-than-expected forecast contained more than $1 billion in hidden pain.
To arrive at the favorable estimate, the Doyle administration’s estimate assumed that Walker and lawmakers would make spending cuts that have yet to actually happen – two more years of state employee furloughs, no pay raises, a virtual hiring freeze and belt tightening in state health programs. Without that $1.1 billion in savings, the state’s projected shortfall rises to $3.3 billion – a significant increase over previous estimates that put the gap at between $2.7 billion and $3.1 billion.
The shortfall and the efforts to close it could affect everything from schools and health care to local governments and taxpayers.
The “revenue projections released Friday underscore what Governor-elect Walker has said for months – the state of Wisconsin is facing very serious budget challenges,” Walker transition director John Hiller said in a statement. “Further, we believe that the true budget shortfall is much higher than indicated by the projections released today.”