Rachel Maddow along with TPM, Ezra Klein and roughly a billion other progressive bloggers made a booboo. Ezra:
The Badger State was actually in pretty good shape. It was supposed to end this budget cycle with about $120 million in the bank. Instead, its facing a deficit. Why? Ill let the states official fiscal scorekeeper explain pdf:
More than half of the lower estimate $117.2 million is due to the impact of Special Session Senate Bill 2 health savings accounts, Assembly Bill 3 tax deductions/credits for relocated businesses, and Assembly Bill 7 tax exclusion for new employees.
In English: The governor called a special session of the legislature and signed two business tax breaks and a conservative health-care policy experiment that lowers overall tax revenues among other things. The new legislation was not offset, and it helped turn a surplus into a deficit [see update at end of post]. As Brian Beutler writes, “public workers are being asked to pick up the tab for this agenda.”
The confusion, it appears, stems from a section in Lang’s memo that — read on its own — does project a $121 million surplus in the state’s general fund as of June 30, 2011.
But the remainder of the routine memo — consider it the fine print — outlines $258 million in unpaid bills or expected shortfalls in programs such as Medicaid services for the needy ($174 million alone), the public defender’s office and corrections. Additionally, the state owes Minnesota $58.7 million under a discontinued tax reciprocity deal.
The result, by our math and Lang’s, is the $137 million shortfall.
The tax cuts will cost the state a projected $140 million in tax revenue — but not until the next two-year budget, from July 2011 to June 2013. The cuts are not even in effect yet, so they cannot be part of the current problem.
Here’s the bottom line:
There is fierce debate over the approach Walker took to address the short-term budget deficit. But there should be no debate on whether or not there is a shortfall. While not historically large, the shortfall in the current budget needed to be addressed in some fashion. Walker’s tax cuts will boost the size of the projected deficit in the next budget, but they’re not part of this problem and did not create it.
What, “Governor who just passed $140mn in tax cuts wants to screw middle class over $140mn deficit” wasn’t juicy enough on its own? And yeah, this union-busting shit is being justified over the alleged crisis generated by a massive $140 million deficit.