Republican legislative leaders downplay Wisconsin budget surplus

By: - March 2, 2023 1:32 pm

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos reacts to Gov. Tony Evers’ 2023 State of the State address. Photo by Baylor Spears/Wisconsin Examiner.

Wisconsin’s Republican legislative leaders are downplaying the state’s surplus as the biennial budget negotiation process heats up. 

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) and the co-chairs of the budget writing Joint Finance Committee, Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam) and Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green), have all recently said that the state’s surplus, which the the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau calculates as more than $7 billion, is actually much less because some of those funds come from one-time federal money. 

The LFB’s estimate is an assessment of how much the state will have in its general fund when the current budget expires June 30. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has described the surplus as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the state to fund a long list of priorities. Republicans have instead proposed using the surplus to fund tax cuts and balked at Evers’ proposals, with Vos accusing the governor of living in a “fantasyland.” 

“We do not have anywhere near the money that Gov. Evers spoke about,” Vos said at the Wisconsin Counties Association’s annual conference on Wednesday. “People believe we have this gargantuan amount of money that we can spend on all kinds of different things. One-time money, yes. Ongoing money, much more difficult.”

Vos told the gathered county leaders that the state will see an increase in revenue of $1.2 billion over the next two years, much of which he said will need to be spent funding Medicaid programs and funding wage increases for state prison guards. 

Some of the surplus comes from “one-time” money from the federal government in the form of COVID-19 relief while other portions are “ongoing” money from the state’s tax collection and other revenue. 

Earlier this week, Born called Evers’ plan “unrealistic” and questioned whether the state could afford his proposals while Marklein told The Wheeler Report that he believes the on-going surplus is more like $3 billion.


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Henry Redman
Henry Redman

Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.