Gov. Tony Evers’ administration is cutting the state’s operations budget by 5 percent in light of revenue losses from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Department of Administration Secretary Joel Brennan outlined the cut in an email to state workers Tuesday. The cuts will take place in the current fiscal year, which runs through June 30.
Evers said at a media briefing Wednesday that the cuts would save state government about $70 million.
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“This is a first step,” Evers said. “We think it’s one of our ways to get to a better place, financially.
While Evers has frequently sparred with Republican lawmakers, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, issued a statement praising the move.
“While we don’t know the complete picture for the state’s finances yet, we know it’s not going to be good,” Vos said. “This is a smart, proactive move by the administration. As we begin work to manage this impending fiscal crisis in Wisconsin, it’s good to see that we’re already on the same page.”
While $70 million is significant, it’s a small sliver of the overall two-year state budget, which is about $84 billion when state and federal funding is included.
It’s also far less than the $2 billion Evers told the Trump administration Wisconsin could lose in tax revenue over the next fiscal year.
Evers said the next state budget, which he will unveil early next year, could require much deeper cuts.
“It’s going to be difficult,” Evers said. “Certainly, we’re hopeful that the federal government will help us along with that. And they’re considering at this point in time. But we’re not wasting time. We’re taking care of what we can take care of now.”
Vos suggested Evers could also freeze spending in the second year of the current budget. Evers has not yet addressed that proposal.
Evers’ proposal comes as many University of Wisconsin System campuses are instituting mandatory unpaid furloughs to cut costs. Asked whether state workers might also be furloughed, the governor would not commit.
“I’m not able to say that at this time,” Evers said. “We’re working hard to get this five percent piece done.”
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