Budget cuts and delays in debt payments have left the state with a $135 million budget surplus, according to the yearly fiscal report released by the state Department of Administration Tuesday.
The state had been projected to end the fiscal year with an almost $300 million deficit, even though the state constitution requires the Legislature pass a balanced budget.
Lawmakers touted the fiscal turnaround as an example of careful budgeting.
“Careful budgeting and tax cuts are creating an environment where revenues are growing better than predicted,” Joint Finance Committee Chairs state Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, and state Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said in a statement. “Wisconsin continues to be better off than it was five years ago. Republicans will continue to protect taxpayers and boost our vastly improved business climate."
It is unclear, however, how much of the savings are a result of austerity in the most recent budget. The majority of the surplus came from delaying $108 million in short-term debt payments and collecting $71 million more in tax revenue than expected.
Delaying the debt service could force taxpayers to wind up footing more interest and principal payments in the future.
Democratic legislators called the surplus “false” and said Republicans should work to address other problems facing the state.
“At a time of national economic growth for most other states, Republican legislators are relying on band-aids just to keep our state government going,” state Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said in a statement. “Instead of patting themselves on the back for a fake surplus, Republicans should be working to address the $250 million hole they left in the UW system and the flat funding for Wisconsin’s struggling public schools.”
School aid represented the largest chunk of the state’s budget, accounting for over $5.3 billion of a $15.6 billion total budget. The University of Wisconsin System accounted for slightly over $1 billion, a 0.8 percent decrease from last year.