(The Center Square) – The price tag for Gov. Tony Evers’ to-be released state budget is already $1 billion larger than the last state budget. And it will likely grow. 

The governor has spent that past two weeks proposing a sweeping array of new spending that includes:

  • $200 million for small businesses
  • $150 million for mental health services 
  • $140 million for child care
  • $600 million for long term care an infrastructure
  • $43 million for farmers and agriculture

In total, that’s $1.1 billion. And that doesn’t include spending increases that state agencies are requesting. 

“It is mindblowing that Governor Evers seems focused on spending every last dollar of Wisconsin’s robust rainy day fund. Fiscal responsibility by the prior Administration and Speaker Vos has put Wisconsin in a position so we are not like Illinois, teetering on bankruptcy,” CJ Szafir, president of the Institute for Reforming Government, told The Center Square. “His agencies are requesting a net spending increase of over $2 billion. At a time when the global pandemic has forced businesses to be more innovative, virtual, and cost-efficient, state government wants to expand its footprint.”

Szafir says the Legislature should hold the line on new spending. 

Wisconsin’s current state budget comes to about $40 billion a year for a two-year spending plan. 

Evers is not saying where any of the money for his $1.1 billion in new spending will come from. He’s not even talking about the $1.5 billion that the Department of Public Instruction is asking for. 

The governor did propose last week to allow local communities to raise their own sales taxes. But Evers said that money would stay local and could be used to offset property tax increases.

The only pre-budget proposal the governor has suggested that would generate dollars is marijuana legalization. 

Evers has said legal recreational and medical pot would be an “economic boom” for Wisconsin. But there’s no price tag from the governor for legal pot in Wisconsin. 

Wisconsin’s neighbor to the south legalized marijuana in 2019, and is providing some bit of a comparison.

Last year, the state of Illinois reported $1 billion in recreational and medical marijuana sales. The state’s tax haul from that $1 billion is about $100 million. That would be one-tenth of what Evers is proposing to spend.

“Increasing taxes, coupled with massive spending hikes, strikes me as incredibly reckless as the state is trying to dig itself out of a global pandemic and economic recession,” Szafir said.

Most of Evers’ budget proposals appear to be dead on arrival at the Wisconsin Capitol. Republicans who control the Legislature and the budget writing process have made that much clear. 

Szafir says he expects the spending plan from lawmakers to be much different from what the governor is proposing.

“Wisconsin’s economy is in the most precarious position,” Szafir added. “Businesses need a policy environment that will help them expand, hire more people, and increase wages.”

The governor will deliver his budget speech at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square. Reposted with permission.