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Petryk column: Understanding Wisconsin's budget surplus

In 2010 when I was first elected to the Assembly, Wisconsin faced a $3.6 billion budget deficit and a staggering unemployment rate of 8.1 percent. In vivid contrast, today our state has historically low unemployment numbers and we have more people working now in Wisconsin than ever before in history. This didn't happen without a Republican-led Legislature. We have been committed to providing historic investments in our educational system, supporting those trying to re-enter the workforce, lowering property taxes and making sure that hardworking families can keep more of the money they've earned without sending it to Madison.

Since 2011, the Legislature has delivered over $8 billion in tax relief to families, as reported by the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. This $8 billion in relief, as documented, came from the Assembly passing income tax cuts, reducing franchise taxes, increasing standard deductions, providing tax relief for farmers and manufacturers, and increasing property tax relief, just to name a few. We were able to do this through the common sense, prudent budgeting proposals. In fact, we lowered the peoples' tax burden to the lowest level it has been in 50 years!

On top of the $8 billion in tax relief, budget projections for the upcoming budget debate are coming in better than expected. To help clear up some of the misconceptions people have on this issue, over the last few months, the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau has been updating its budget projections, informing us how the state performed over the last budget and providing estimates of future growth to help inform our decisions about the upcoming budget.

The updated numbers show that Wisconsin is expected to generate an additional $2.4 billion in revenues over the next budget cycle (an increase from the previous estimate number of $2.1). In addition, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau also reported that Wisconsin state agencies underspent their current budgets, generating a nearly $600 million surplus.

That surplus of unspent funds from the last budget should be returned to the taxpayers of Wisconsin, since it is your money in the first place. That is why I voted for Assembly Bill 4 which would send these funds back through a Middle Class Tax cut, with the median family receiving $310 in tax relief. It's unfortunate that some others would rather increase taxes on our manufacturers to pay for a tax cut when we have a surplus. My hope is that others will see the value in this common sense proposal and support the taxpayers of the 93rd Assembly District.

As has always been the case, please feel free to contact my office if you have any questions about the upcoming budget process or any other topics or concerns. You can reach me and my staff by calling 888-834-0093 or by emailing me at Rep.Petryk@legis.wisconsin.gov