One Idea For Budget Surplus That No One’s Discussing: Doing Nothing

Leaving Surplus Alone 'Would Be Difficult To Justify', Says Senate Majority Leader

Gov. Scott Walker will detail his plans regarding the budget surplus this Wednesday during the State of the State address.

As Gov. Scott Walker and leaders from both parties talk about what to do with a projected budget surplus, one idea nobody’s talking about is leaving the money alone.

Walker will start to discuss the details of how he wants to use this money during his annual State of the State address this Wednesday. But the broad strokes of what both parties envision are already clear: Republicans want some mix of tax cuts, and Democrats want to spend the money on education and job training. Under either option, the surplus goes down.

But there is another option that Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said his members discussed with Legislative Fiscal Bureau Director Bob Lang.

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Fitzgerald: “I think the first question we asked Director Lang was, ‘What if you do nothing?’ And he said, well, obviously you’d have – this is off of the top of my head, but – over a billion dollars in the opening balance going into the next budget. I’ll be honest with you, I think that would be difficult to justify. Maybe more so even in the shadow of the UW debate we had.”

During that debate, Republican lawmakers blasted the University of Wisconsin System for holding hundreds of millions of dollars in reserves.

While the idea of doing nothing might be politically unpopular, especially in an election year, it would have its benefits. The state’s structural deficit headed into the next two-year budget stood at $725 million the last time it was measured. Doing nothing would erase that with money to spare.

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