Gov. Scott Walker and his tea party acolytes are breathlessly touting the possibility of a $342-million budget surplus, but what does it mean?
When Walker took office two years ago, the state faced a severe projected budget deficit. Republicans had voters quaking in their UGGs with warnings that Wisconsin was bankrupt and financially imploding.
But as everyone with a credit card knows, having a deficit is not the same thing as being bankrupt and indigent. The state had not defaulted on its bills. It had – and has – strong revenue sources and enormous assets. For example, the Wisconsin Retirement System pension fund made a $10.5-billion profit in 2009.
Still, the tea party proceeded to destroy unions, slash health and education funding, kill promising infrastructure projects and eliminate thousands of good government jobs – all in the name of defeating the budget deficit.
Well, now the mission has been accomplished. The bogeyman is dead. So we should be sitting on top of the world – right?
Wisconsin ranks 42nd in the nation in terms of job creation. In December, Forbes branded the state one of the nation’s worst places to do business and projected that job growth here would be the second worst in the country through 2016.
Wisconsin ranks 39th in terms of labor supply – a hindrance to growth that will only worsen due to budget hits taken by public education and backward social engineering that drives young people to move elsewhere. The state ranks 35th in business costs, a problem that Republicans haven’t even tried to address.
The lion’s share of new jobs are created by small businesses. Their major costs are health care and worker productivity. But Republicans have done nothing to assist small businesses in either area.
In fact, the GOP actively opposes the Affordable Health Act and has trimmed BadgerCare, both of which can help small start-ups that can’t afford to pay for employee health care. Wisconsin Workforce Development invariably sides with employees, which makes hiring for small ventures almost impossibly risky. There’s been no effort to address that problem.
Meanwhile, in an attempt to recoup some of the state funding they’ve lost under Walker, local governments sock it to small businesses using any bizarre revenue schemes they can devise.
Reforming the climate for small businesses in the state isn’t even on the table. The GOP has focused solely on policies to bolster the bottom lines of mega-corporations, which don’t even pay taxes, while small business are taxed through the roof and strangled with red tape.
Walker says he plans to use the budget surplus to give tax breaks – undoubtedly to the rich – in order to stimulate job growth. Unfortunately, that’s never worked.
Under the higher tax rates the wealthy paid during the Clinton presidency, jobs were created at a rate of 230,000 per month. After the Bush-era tax cuts, job growth fell to a meager 10,000 a month until the employment rate sputtered in 2006 and then nose-dived.
The GOP’s touted budget surplus is just an empty figure for a misleading campaign billboard. It does nothing to make Wisconsin “open for business,” and Walker’s disastrous jobs record proves it.