June 22, 2011
Governor Walker’s signature on Assembly Bill 40 will give Wisconsin its first genuinely balanced budget in more than a dozen years. The Left’s rhetoric suggests it would prefer bankruptcy.
In a stellar exhibition of what passes for reasoning in his political party, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin called the balanced budget a “hollow victory,” one he said was achieved “on the backs of local government, public workers, schools, the middle class, the elderly and disabled.”
We’ll stop laughing when somebody shows us how local government—or any government, public workers and schools produce the wealth that is taxed to sustain them. And the last we heard, the middle class, elderly and disabled were among those being taxed. A balanced budget might not threaten them the way it does the Mayor.
Down at the other end of State Street and widely alleged to be a victim of budget-balancing actions is the center of Wisconsin higher education. But the UW System—despite a $250 million reduction in direct taxpayer support—seems to have a brighter view of its situation.
New flexibility in budgeting and financial management, thanks to the budget bill, will help the university system cope, and individual university employees will benefit significantly from revised tax treatment of their retirement contributions.
According to a UW system statement: “UW System leaders also acknowledged other important provisions in the budget bill, such as a statutory change that will treat state and UW employees’ retirement contributions on a pre-tax basis. For an employee earning $36,000 per year, the ability to make pre-tax contributions will save an estimated $475 per year.” See UW System: Statement on legislative budget action
The benefit to employees went largely unnoticed; possibly because it was created through a budget amendment authored by Republicans and doesn’t fit the media template of the GOP stalking the countryside looking for public workers to mug. If the UW system is sincere about realizing it’s not alone in the struggle to balance the books amid a debilitated economy, better things may lie ahead. A balanced budget would be one such thing, so there’s already something worth celebrating.