Wisconsin is projected to close out the current biennium with more than $3.8 billion in the state’s general fund — more than $2.8 billion higher than previously estimated, the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau reported Tuesday.
The bulk of the state’s increased revenue stems from an estimated $2.5 billion increase in tax collections by the end of the state’s two-year budget cycle in the summer of 2023. Other factors include a roughly $33 million increase in department revenues and an almost $340 million decrease in net appropriations.
The projected surplus was also spurred by a massive influx of federal dollars pumped into the state during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Republican leaders were quick to signal that their plan is to use the funds on future tax cuts, rather than on increased spending on state services as Democratic lawmakers have proposed.
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“We will not be foolish with these tax dollars by spending them into the future,” Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, said in a statement. “Rather, we will focus on further tax relief in the next budget to continue our state on a positive trajectory and ensure the long-term health of the state budget and, more importantly, family budgets.”
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers also celebrated the state’s surplus projection in a statement Tuesday, but pushed back against plans to hold off on any spending until the next budget process, which begins in 2023. Evers is running for a second term this fall.
“At the end of the day, I know folks and families are facing rising costs at the checkout line and businesses are facing challenges getting resources and supplies,” Evers said. “Wisconsinites need help making ends meet and can’t wait until the next biennial budget — they need relief now.”
Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, noted that, while the projected surplus is a positive sign for the state’s economy, he added that inflation and workforce shortage challenges in the state should lead lawmakers to exercise a level of caution moving forward. The ongoing pandemic also creates uncertainty in the state’s future finances, the bureau’s report notes.
“Waiting until we have a better picture of the challenges and opportunities of the next budget before returning the surplus to taxpayers is the prudent thing to do,” Wanggaard said in a statement.
The Republican co-chairs of the state’s budget committee Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, and Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, said in a joint statement the projected surplus could be largely attributed to “a decade of responsible budgeting and significant tax cuts by Republicans.”
Thanks to an unprecedented projected surplus last year, Republicans worked a $2 billion income tax cut into the state’s 2021-23 biennial budget, which was ultimately signed last summer by Evers.
Traditionally, half of the state’s projected surplus gets deposited into the state’s budget stabilization fund, a rainy day fund to be tapped in times of emergency. However, the bureau reports that, because the rainy day fund’s balance of more than $1.7 billion exceeds 5% of the estimated general fund expenditures, none of the surplus will be deposited into the emergency account.
Badgers Bracketology: Where experts see Wisconsin men's basketball's standing in the NCAA tournament
Joe Lunardi, ESPN
Current: Two seed, facing Seattle
Last week: Three seed
Lunardi has seven Big Ten teams making his 2022 bracket, the second-most of any conference, and the Badgers share the two line with Purdue.
Lunardi was predicting the Badgers will be the Big Ten’s automatic qualifier as the conference tournament champion, but his most updated bracket was released before Michigan State’s win at the Kohl Center.
Jerry Palm, CBS
Current: One seed, facing Norfolk State
Last week: Two seed
Palm again has the Badgers among the nation’s best teams, and he has been high on them since their Maui Invitational win in December. The Badgers are the highest-seeded Big Ten team in Palm’s latest projection, which was released before the Michigan State game.
“The Badgers have been one of the more pleasant surprises this season,” Palm wrote last week. “They were picked for ninth in the Big Ten in our preseason predictions, but nobody expected newcomer Johnny Davis to play like an All-American in the first half of the season. Davis has helped propel Wisconsin to the top of the Big Ten and now, the top line of the bracket.”
Mike DeCourcy, Sporting News
👀 @BaylorMBB makes the jump up to a 1 seed in @tsnmike's latest Bracket Forecast— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) January 21, 2022
What do you think of his tournament field? 👇 pic.twitter.com/3NBwpYP1W4
UW remained the highest of the Big Ten teams in DeCourcy’s bracket Friday, but the Spartans were a four seed before they beat UW.
Neither of the teams UW plays this week is expected to make the tournament, so the Badgers can’t afford bad losses to these lesser foes.
NET Rankings, Quadrant wins
UW was No. 21 in the NET rankings Monday, down three spots from last week.
The NET rankings replaced RPI as the key evaluator for teams during the season and the tournament selection process.
Here’s a primer on how the NET Rankings are calculated:
The NET Rankings are used to determine in which quadrant a game falls for a team. This gives teams credit for playing, and beating, strong opponents, especially on the road. The breakdown is as follows:
Quadrant 1: Home 1-30, Neutral 1-50, Away 1-75
Quadrant 2: Home 31-75, Neutral 51-100, Away 76-135
Quadrant 3: Home 76-160, Neutral 101-200, Away 135-240
Quadrant 4: Home 161-353, Neutral 201-353, Away 241-353
UW is 5-2 in Quadrant 1 games, 5-1 in Quadrant 2 games, and combined 5-0 in Quadrant 3 and 4 games. Nebraska likely will be a Quadrant 3 game for UW, while Minnesota is right on the edge between a Quadrant 2 or 3 game for the Badgers.