- As the Legislature works over the next several weeks to finalize the state budget, advocates with the nonpartisan Wisconsin Budget Project believe lawmakers can avoid making deep budget cuts without needing to raise taxes.
In a new policy paper released last week, the group argues that the state could bring in an additional $782 million by committing to three policy changes: accepting federal money to expand Medicaid (BadgerCare in Wisconsin), stopping a proposed property tax cut, and capping tax breaks for manufacturers.
Wisconsin Budget Project Director John Peacock says that accepting federal money to expand the state's BadgerCare program would make a big difference in the state's fiscal outlook.
"We can cover more [people] in BadgerCare, avoid some cuts to BadgerCare that the governor has proposed, and still have a net increase of more than $345 million," Peacock said.
Wisconsin is the only Great Lakes state to refuse federal money for the health care expansion, and most political experts doubt Governor Scott Walker or Republicans in the Legislature would change their minds on the issue, but Peacock believes Wisconsin could take the money in the future.
"Lots of states have [accepted the money], and in some cases--Arizona and other states--they've made accepting that money and expanding their Medicaid programs contingent upon federal continuation of it," Peacock said.
The policy paper also argues that the state should freeze property tax cuts to save money. Peacock says the current tax credit, which costs the state more than $200 million, saves the owner of $150,000 home only about $5 in property taxes each year.
"We'd all love to see our property taxes frozen--or, better yet, to come down," Peacock said,"but at some point there is a matter of priorities."
Peacock also believes the state should freeze the Manufacturing and Agricultural Tax Credit. According to numbers from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, that tax credit would end up costing the state $285 million once it's fully implemented in 2017.
"It's not a well-targeted tax break for corporations," Peacock said. "They get that tax credit whether they're laying off people or adding employees."
We'll have to wait and see if the Legislature adopts any of the changes suggested by the Wisconsin Budget Project, but the budget has seen some changes lately. The Joint Finance Committee removed 14 policies from the proposed budget last week.
To read the full text of the Wisconsin Budget Project's policy paper, follow the link below.