The following open letter was written by Gary Olson, a Republican who has been corresponding with both Governor Scott Walker and his state senator, Scott Fitzgerald, for the past year. Gary takes issue with the lack of transparency in the current administration, as well as its false claims of fiscal responsibility. In this letter, he lays out his case and explains how Walker and Fitzgerald are kicking the can down the road by more than doubling our debt-to-revenue ratio, despite their claims otherwise.
Letter from a Republican:
Wisconsin Cannot Afford Scott Walker (or Scott Fitzgerald)
by Gary Olson
Governor Walker openly claims that his administration balanced the state budget that required closing a $3.6 billion deficit. My Senator (Scott Fitzgerald) frequently touts that the GOP led budget created a surplus, while not raising taxes. As a tax payer, much of this sounds rather appealing until I started putting pen to paper on the figures. So much of this just does not seem to add up when you look at the funds that were cut versus the level of spending that was approved in the 2011-2013 state budget. How exactly did we close a $3.6 billion deficit, generate a $306 million surplus, and increase the overall budget spending by $1.1 billion while being completely broke and not raising taxes?
I believe that the 2011-2013 budget pushed a lot of debt into the future by delaying debt service payments until 2013 and well beyond. Debt structuring through the sale of bonds and other means of borrowing into the future are not limited to Scott Walker or the Republicans, it is a practice used by both parties. It was bad enough that Governor Doyle did this as much as he did; now we have a governor who campaigned against doing those things, only to be demonstrating otherwise. On top of that, Governor Walker is talking about covering the $143.2 million deficit (that was supposed to be a $306 million surplus) by borrowing even more money so that we do not have to raise taxes or issue another Emergency Budget Repair Bill for the budget that we are only nine months into. What impact will this move have on our state’s existing long term debt service and our ability to keep up with the payments?
The state standard for debt-to-revenue ratio is no greater than 4%, with a target debt ratio of 3-3.5% of General Program Revenue. When Governor Walker took office, Wisconsin’s debt ratio stood at 2.28%. That is not a plug for the former governor or a jab at the current governor, they are simply the numbers according to the June 14th 2011 LFB memo from the state. Under the 2011-2013 state budget, our debt ratio is expected to grow to almost 5% next year. In 2013-2014, it will grow to over 5%, and it could easily be much higher if we do not see a generous 4% growth in revenue. Forget about asking how close we are to 4% growth because currently our revenue is actually declining according to recent LFB figures.
I do not believe that Wisconsin has ever seen a debt-to-revenue ratio of 5%, much less higher? Furthermore, I do not feel confident that we will see a 4% growth in revenue anytime soon, but I will be very happy to be wrong about that. As a taxpayer, I am deeply concerned about the amount of debt that we took on and the delayed interest that we will be paying on over the next ten years so that we can say that we have a balanced budget today.
Yes, I am a Republican but that does not mean that I have to buy into everything that my Governor or my Senator are doing, especially when it comes to the handling of my tax dollars. My confidence in the two of them has been shaken and I am deeply worried about our financial future as a state if we continue balancing budgets in this manner.
Gary Olson, Lake Mills
Gary Olson on why he is standing up and speaking out against Scott Fitzgerald, after voting for him many times. Think Fitz will take him up on his challenge to a debate? I wish he would.