Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker ran a lot of television ads during the signature-gathering period of the recall effort against him. In the ads he claims that he did what he said he would do when he campaigned for governor: balance the state budget, create jobs, and not increase taxes.
In fact, he has accomplished none of the above. He's batting 0.000, but he said yesterday that he plans to correct one of his mistakes by taking money meant for Wisconsinites victimized by unscrupulous mortgage lenders.
After Walker's first budget went into effect on July 1, 2011, Wisconsin started shedding jobs faster than any other state in the nation. Wisconsin has now lost jobs every month since July when most states were adding jobs.
Walker raised taxes, too, just not on the people who could afford it. His budget made severe cuts in the Homestead tax credit and the Earned Income tax credit, which raised state income taxes on tens of thousands of Wisconsin’s working poor and on senior citizens on fixed incomes trying to stay in their own homes.
Walker's attempt to balance the state budget is his biggest failure. The allegedly “balanced” budget as passed was only balanced on a cash basis, but not if evaluated using Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Walker had promised to truly balance the budget using GAAP (unlike his predecessors), but he didn’t. As passed, the budget still had the 3 billion dollar structural deficit he claimed he could fix.
Now, it turns out that even on a cash basis, his budget will be short by 143 million dollars due to lower than expected tax revenues. Walker’s solution? Debt restructuring (a method he once scorned and referred to as a “trick”), and stealing money from the state’s share of the recently announced mortgage fraud settlement between 5 large banks and 49 states. Wisconsin was represented in the settlement talks by its Republican Attorney General, J.B. Van Hollen, who appeared with Walker at a press conference yesterday where they had to sufficiently gloat about collecting the dough without being too harsh on the poor little banks that caused the mortgage meltdown.
Wisconsin’s share of the settlement, 140 million dollars, is supposed to be used for things like reimbursing people whose homes were illegally foreclosed on, or who are now underwater on their home mortgages. Instead, Scott Walker is going to steal up to 30 million of those dollars to help balance his “balanced” budget.
When a news anchor asked the attorney general about this last night on local television, Van Hollen mumbled something about all Wisconsinites being hurt by the mortgage crisis, so it’s fair to use the money to plug a hole in the state budget.
Walker must be shocked, shocked to learn that when you take billions of dollars out of the middle class and use it to give tax breaks to corporations, the amount of revenue the state collects in corporate income taxes, individual income taxes, and state sales taxes goes down. And that small businesses suffer and stop hiring new employees - or even lay off workers. And that people who have been laid off or forced from their homes then turn to public aid to survive, which increases the amount of money the state must spend.
Nobody could have predicted that, right?
By the way, my property taxes went up 3% despite Walker’s reforms and his claims that it would go down or stay the same. Unlike a Tea Party nut-job, though, I am not complaining about it. Call me a spendthrift, but I like having my streets plowed, my home protected by police and firefighters, and my children educated, and I don’t mind paying the teachers, cops, and snowplow drivers a decent wage with decent benefits.