Governor Evers’ Budget Vetoes Leave State with Projected $4 Billion Surplus

One of the biggest questions headed into this year’s state budget debate was how Republican lawmakers and Gov. Tony Evers would handle Wisconsin’s record surplus. Now that the dust has mostly settled, there’s plenty of money left over.

Wisconsin began the two-year budget cycle with a projected surplus of roughly $7 billion in its general fund. Following the budget vetoes last week by Evers, the current projected surplus for the next budget is about $4 billion.

“There’s still a massive amount of money that the state has in reserve,” said Jason Stein, research director at the Wisconsin Policy Forum.

Neither side planned it that way, exactly.

The budget Evers presented to lawmakers in February would have spent more of the surplus on education, broadband, child care, paid family leave and a range of other government programs. That budget would have ended with gross balance of about $634 million.

The budget Republicans passed in June would have spent more of the surplus on a $3.5 Billion income tax cut. That budget would have left a similar balance of about $588 million.

In the end, Republicans gave Evers less than half of what he wanted for public schools and zeroed out other programs altogether. And Evers used his partial veto to reject a GOP income tax cut for the state’s top two brackets.

The end result leaves lawmakers and the governor with some of the same choices they faced when the budget debate began earlier this year. The trick is, they still have to agree.

In his veto message to lawmakers, Evers suggested that by eliminating the bulk of the GOP tax cut, he had preserved enough funding for a budget do-over.

That is never going to happen,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, during an appearance last week on WISN-AM. “We’re not going to all of a sudden decide to spend the money.”

Vos indicated that Republicans would try to override Evers’ vetoes, a move he acknowledged was unlikely to succeed in the Assembly where the GOP is just short of a two-thirds supermajority. He also told conservative talk radio host Jay Weber that Republicans would send Evers standalone bills to cut taxes even if they’re destined for more vetoes.

“I think that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” Vos said.