Wisconsin state budget and finances
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|Wisconsin budget and finances|
|Budget calendar: |
|Fiscal year: |
|State credit rating: |
AA (as of May 2012)
|Current governor: |
|GF expenses: |
|All funds expenses: |
$42.8 billion (FY 2013 estimate)
|Spending % change: |
|% from federal funding: |
| State debt: |
|Per capita state debt: |
|Other state budgets|
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|Total state expenditures • State debt • Tax policy in Wisconsin|
|Note: This page utilizes information from a variety of sources. As such, the currency of the information varies somewhat. The information presented on this page reflects the most recent data available as of February 2015.|
- 1 Budget process
- 2 Expenditures
- 3 Revenues
- 4 State budgets by year
- 5 Historical spending
- 6 State debt
- 7 Federal aid to state budget
- 8 Budget transparency
- 9 Accounting principles
- 10 Contact information
- 11 See also
- 12 External links
- 13 References
- A summary of the budget drafting process
- Trends in expenditures and revenues
- Current and past fiscal year budget developments
- Financial transparency measures
Between fiscal year 2009 and fiscal year 2013, Wisconsin's total expenditures increased by approximately $2.7 billion, from $40.1 billion in 2009 to $42.8 billion in 2013. This represents a 6.31 percent increase, below the cumulative rate of inflation during the same period (9.06 percent, calculated using the Consumer Price Indices for January 2009 and January 2013).
- Budget instruction guidelines are sent to state agencies in June.
- State agencies submit budget requests in September.
- The governor submits his or her proposed budget to the Wisconsin State Legislature in January.
- The legislature adopts a budget in June or July. A simple majority is needed to pass a budget.
- The biennial budget cycle begins in July.
The governor is constitutionally required to submit a balanced budget. In addition, the legislature is constitutionally required to pass a balanced budget.
Although each state executes its budget process differently, the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO) breaks down state expenditures into four general categories. This allows for comparisons among the 50 states. NASBO's categories are as follows:
- General fund: "The predominant fund for financing a state’s operations. Revenues are received from broad-based state taxes. However, there are differences in how specific functions are financed from state to state."
- Other funds: "Expenditures from revenue sources that are restricted by law for particular governmental functions or activities. For example, a gasoline tax dedicated to a highway trust fund would appear in the 'Other funds' column. For Medicaid, other state funds include provider taxes, fees, donations, assessments, and local funds."
- Federal funds: "Funds received directly from the federal government."
- Bonds: "Expenditures from the sale of bonds, generally for capital projects."
The table below breaks down expenditures for fiscal year 2013 (comparable figures from surrounding states are provided to give additional context). Figures for all columns except "Per capita expenditures" are rendered in millions of dollars (for example, $2,448 translates to $2,448,000,000). Figures in the column labeled "Per capita expenditures" have not been abbreviated.
|Total state expenditures, FY 2013 ($ in millions)|
|State||General fund||Federal funds||Other funds||Bonds||Total||Per capita expenditures**|
| **Per capita figures are calculated by taking the state's total expenditures and dividing by the number of state residents according to United States Census estimates.|
Source: National Association of State Budget Officers
Expenditures by function
State expenditures in Wisconsin can be further broken down by function (elementary and secondary education, public assistance, etc.). Fiscal year 2012 data is included in the table below (information from neighboring states is provided for additional context). Figures are rendered as percents, indicating the share of the total budget spent per category.
|Expenditures by function, FY 2012 (as percents)|
|State||Elementary and secondary ed.||Higher ed.||Public assistance||Medicaid||Corrections||Transportation||Other**|
| Source: National Association of State Budget Officers|
Note**: "Other" expenditures include "Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), institutional and community care for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled, public health programs, employer contributions to pensions and health benefits, economic development, environmental projects, state police, parks and recreation, housing and general aid to local governments."
From 2008 to 2012, Medicaid spending rose three percentage points, or 22 percent, as a share of the budget; higher education increased by 3 percentage points, or 7.6 percent, as a share of the budget, and elementary and secondary education went down 2.4 percentage points, for a 12.5 percent decrease as a share of the budget. The table below details changes in expenditures from 2008 to 2012. Figures are rendered as percents, indicating the share of the total budget spent per category.
|Expenditures from 2008 to 2012 (as percents)|
|Year||Elementary and secondary ed.||Higher ed.||Public assistance||Medicaid||Corrections||Transportation||Other|
|Change in %||-2.40%||1.00%||0.10%||3.00%||-0.50%||-0.10%||-1.10%|
|Source: National Association of State Budget Officers|
The table below breaks down general fund revenues by source in fiscal year 2013 (comparable figures from surrounding states are also provided to give additional context). Figures for all columns except "Per capita revenue" are rendered in millions of dollars (for example, $2,448 translates to $2,448,000,000). Figures in the column labeled "Per capita revenue" have not been abbreviated.
|Revenue sources in the general fund, FY 2013 ($ in millions)|
|State||Sales tax||Personal income tax||Corporate income tax||Gaming tax||Other taxes and fees||Total||Per capita revenue**|
| **Per capita figures are calculated by taking the state's total revenues and dividing by the number of state residents according to United States Census estimates for 2013.|
Source: National Association of State Budget Officers
The table below details the change in revenue sources in the general fund from 2009 to 2013. Figures for all columns except "Per capita revenue" are rendered in millions of dollars (for example, $2,448 translates to $2,448,000,000). Figures in the column labeled "Per capita revenue" have not been abbreviated.
|Revenue sources in the general fund, Wisconsin ($ in millions)|
|Year||Sales tax||Personal income tax||Corporate income tax||Gaming tax||Other taxes and fees||Total||Per capita revenue**|
|Change in %||7.98%||20.47%||46.83%||N/A||6.54%||16.29%||19.26%|
| **Per capita figures are calculated by taking the state's total revenues and dividing by the number of state residents according to United States Census estimates.|
Source: National Association of State Budget Officers
State budgets by year
See budget bill: 2013 Wisconsin Act 20
Fiscal year 2014
|Wisconsin state budget -- 2014|
|Wisconsin State Legislature|
|Text:||Assembly Bill 40|
|Introduced:||February 20, 2013|
|House:||June 18, 2013|
|Vote (lower house):||55-42|
|Senate:||June 21, 2013|
|Vote (upper house):||17-16|
|Signed:||June 30, 2013|
On June 30, 2013, Governor Scott Walker signed Assembly Bill 40, the budget bill for the 2013-2015 biennium passed by the Wisconsin State Legislature, into law, making it Wisconsin Act 20. The new biennium started with a $670 million surplus, which was the state's largest opening balance in over a decade. The Rainy Day Fund had also restored some of its depleted funds, bringing the balance to over $243 million, which was its highest balance on record.
The governor made 57 vetoes to the budget bill before signing it into law. According to Gov. Walker, these vetoes removed unnecessary reports and requirements, clarified program intentions and timelines and promoted efficient administration. In total, the vetoes cut spending by $865,000.
Fiscal year 2013
- See also: Wisconsin state budget (2012-2013)
Fiscal year 2012
- See also: Wisconsin state budget (2011-2012)
Fiscal year 2011
- See also: Wisconsin state budget (2010-2011)
Fiscal year 2010
- See also: Wisconsin state budget (2009-2010)
State budget historical spending below was compiled by the National Association of State Budget Officers. Figures reflect the reported "Total Expenditures" in Table 1. Figures for all columns are rendered in millions of dollars (for example, $2,448 translates to $2,448,000,000).
|Historical state spending in Wisconsin ($ in millions)|
|Fiscal year||General Fund||Other funds||Federal funds||Bonds||Budget totals|
|Total||% of Budget||Total||% of Budget||Total||% of Budget||Total||% of Budget|
According to a January 2014 report by the nonprofit organization State Budget Solutions, Wisconsin had a state debt of over $45 billion. Its state debt per capita was $7,863. The report revealed that state governments faced a combined $5.1 trillion in debt, 33 percent of annual gross state product. The obligation amounts to $16,178 per capita in the nation. A bulk of the state debt -- 79 percent -- was linked to unfunded public pensions.
|Total state debt in Wisconsin|
|Total state debt||$45,026,643,000||31|
|Per capita debt||$7,863||47|
|State and other fund expenditures||$30,752,000,000||49|
A 2012 report from the Pew Center on the States noted that Wisconsin's pension system was fully funded at the close of fiscal year 2010. Consequently, Pew designated the state's pension system as a "solid performer."
Taken together, the funding ratio for the state's pension system increased from 99.6 percent in fiscal year 2006 to 99.9 percent in fiscal year 2011, an increase of 0.3 percentage points, or approximately 0.3 percent. Likewise, unfunded liabilities decreased from $320.5 million in fiscal year 2006 to $99.3 million in fiscal year 2011.
States sometimes sell general obligation bonds to investors in order to finance large-scale undertakings (e.g., road construction and other public works projects). Credit rating agencies, such as Standard and Poor's, assign grades to states, evaluating their ability to pay the principal and interest on such bonds. Standard and Poor's grades range from AAA, the highest available, to BBB, the lowest. Generally speaking, a higher credit rating indicates lower risk for an investor, which in turn lowers costs for taxpayers.
The table below lists the Standard and Poor's credit rating for Wisconsin from 2001 to 2012 (grades from surrounding states are provided for additional context).
|S&P credit ratings from 2001 to 2012|
Federal aid to state budget
- See also: Federal aid to budgets in the 50 states
The chart below notes how much of the state’s general revenues come from the federal government. Figures were calculated by dividing each state’s federal intergovernmental revenue into its general revenue. The number in the rightmost column indicates the state's ranking in relation to the rest of the nation (e.g., if "1," the state receives the highest percentage of federal funding in the nation). Figures from neighboring states are included to provide additional context.
State governments receive aid from the federal government to fund a variety of joint programs, such as Medicaid. Federal aid varies considerably from state to state. For example, Mississippi received approximately $7.7 billion in federal aid in 2012, which accounted for more than 45 percent of the state's general revenues. By contrast, Alaska received roughly $2.9 billion in federal aid in 2012, just under 20 percent of the state's general revenues.
|Federal aid to state budgets in 2012|
|State||Federal aid as % of general revenue||Total federal aid||National rank|
According to Recovery.gov, the official government website for the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Wisconsin received $3.63 billion in federal funding between February 2009 and June 2013.
|Line item expenditures|
|Public employee salaries|
|Last evaluated in 2011.|
Wisconsin's Contract Sunshine Act called for the creation and maintenance of an Internet site so that anyone could access information about every state contract, purchase, and solicitation of bids or proposals that involved an annual expenditure of $10,000 or more. The site, Contract Sunshine, launched in 2007. In 2011, a state audit found the site to be of "limited value" and sometimes erroneous.
The table to the right is helpful in evaluating the level of transparency provided by Contract Sunshine.
Multi-measure budget transparency profile
The Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois created a multi-measure transparency profile for Wisconsin, which measured state transparency as of September 2011 using indicators from a range of organizations. These indicators measured both website transparency and other recognized facets of governmental transparency. In addition, IGPA presented four unique indicators of non-transparency based on the observation that transfers or reassignments between general and special funds can obscure the true fiscal condition of a state.
IGPA devised a budget transparency index based on information available from the National Association of State Budget Officers. Wisconsin tied for 33rd in the nation with 12 other states, earning four out of eight possible points.
|Wisconsin - IGPA score for budget process, contents and disclosure|
|Budget transparency indicator||Yes or no?|
|"Generally Accepted Accounting Principles" budget|
|Binding revenue forecast|
|Legislative revenue forecast|
|Constitution or statutory tax/spend limitations|
In addition to the individual state profile, IGPA offers a 50-state comparison and profiles for other states.
U.S. PIRG "Following the Money" report
- See also: "Following the Money" report, 2014
The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer-focused nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., released its annual report on state transparency websites in April 2014. The report, entitled "Following the Money," measured how transparent and accountable state websites are with regard to state government spending. According to the report, Wisconsin received a grade of A- and a numerical score of 90, indicating that Wisconsin was "leading" in terms of transparency regarding state spending.
The Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau is a nonpartisan legislative service agency created to assist the Wisconsin State Legislature in maintaining oversight of state operations. The Bureau conducts objective audits and evaluations of state agency operations to ensure financial transactions have been made in a legal and proper manner and to determine whether programs are administered effectively, efficiently, and in accordance with the policies of the legislature and the governor. The results of these evaluations are provided to the legislature, along with recommendations for improvements in agency operations. The Legislative Audit Bureau was created by Chapter 659, Laws of Wisconsin 1965. Prior to the creation of the Bureau, financial audits were performed by the Department of State Audit, an executive branch department created in 1947. The Legislative Audit Bureau is organized into four sections: Financial Audit, Program Evaluation, Information Systems Support, and Administrative Services.
The Institute for Truth in Accounting (IFTA) rates Wisconsin “timely” in filing the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) – the annual report of state and local governmental entities. IFTA rated 22 states timely, 22 states tardy, and six states as worst. IFTA does not consider Wisconsin's CAFRs, and those of the other states, to be accurate representations of the state’s financial condition because the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) basis does not include significant liabilities for the pension plans and for other post employment benefits, such as health care. Wisconsin's CAFRs are publications of the Wisconsin Department of Administration, Division of Executive Budget and Finance, State Controller's Office.
In January 2012, an issue arose regarding the state's accounting principles. Under cash basis accounting, which the state uses, Governor Scott Walker announced that the state budget was balanced. In January 2012, however, state officials certified to federal government officials that under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), the state would have a deficit. Under GAAP, the state's promises to pay money in the future are taken into account, whereas they are not in cash basis accounting. This so-called GAAP deficit has occurred for years in state government. Former governor Jim Doyle also said they balanced the budget on a cash basis while the GAAP deficit remained.
State Budget Office
101 E Wilson Street, 10th Floor
Madison, WI 53703
- Wisconsin government sector lobbying
- Wisconsin public pensions
- Governor of Wisconsin
- Wisconsin State Legislature
- Wisconsin State Senate
- Wisconsin State Assembly
- State Budget Solutions, Wisconsin
- American Legislative Exchange Council
- Wisconsin Policy Research Institute
- Lucy Burns Institute
- Taxpayers Network Incorporated
- Wisconsin Department of Administration
- Wisconsin Executive Budget, 2007-2009
- State Contract Information
- Citizens for Responsible Government Network
- Government Accountability in Spending Project
- U.S. PIRG, "Report: Transparent & Accountable Budgets," April 8, 2014
- The New York Times, "Battles loom in many states over what to do with budget surpluses," February 3, 2014
- Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "Policy Basics: The ABCs of State Budgets," February 7, 2013
- Refers to General Fund spending. Typically in state budgets the General Fund is spending that is most directly controlled by state legislators.
- This figure is derived by calculating the percent difference between the prior two years' spending levels according to the National Association of State Budget Officers.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, "CPI Detailed Report Data for February 2014," accessed April 9, 2014
- InflationData.com, "Cumulative Inflation Calculator," February 28, 2014
- National Conference of State Legislatures "State Experiences with Annual and Biennial Budgeting," updated April 2011
- National Association of State Budget Officers "Budget Processes in the States, Summer 2008," accessed February 21, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditure Report, 2011-2013," accessed February 21, 2014
- United States Census Bureau, "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2013," accessed February 26, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditure Report, 2009-2011," accessed February 24, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditures Report, 2010-2012," accessed February 24, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditure Report, 2009," accessed February 24, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditure Report, 2008," accessed February 24, 2014
- United States Census Bureau, "Vintage 2009: Annual Population Estimates," accessed February 26, 2014
- Wisconsin State Legislature, "Assembly Bill 40," accessed May 7, 2014
- Wisconsin State Legislature, "Governor's Veto Message," July 1, 2013
- State Budget Solutions, "State Budget Solutions' Fourth Annual State Debt Report," January 8, 2014
- Washington Examiner, "EXography: Unfunded public employee pensions drive state debts skyward," January 21, 2014
- State Budget Solutions "State Budget Solutions' Fourth Annual State Debt Report," January 8, 2014
- Pew Center on the States, "Widening Gap Update: Wisconsin," June 18, 2012
- Stateline: The Daily News Service of The Pew Charitable Trusts, "Infographic: S&P State Credit Ratings, 2001-2012," July 13, 2012
- United States Census Bureau, "State Government Finances: 2012," accessed February 24, 2014
- Recovery.gov, "Stimulus Spending by State," accessed February 21, 2014
- The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Audit says state informational website is of limited value," August 31, 2011
- Institute of Government and Public Affairs at University of Illinois, "Home page," accessed February 21, 2014
- Institute of Government and Public Affairs at University of Illinois, "Budget Transparency Profiles - All 50 States," September 2011
- U.S. Public Interest Research Group, "Following the Money 2014 Report," accessed April 15, 2014
- The Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau Website, accessed November 18, 2009
- IFTA State Data Lab, "Wisconsin," accessed September 17, 2013
- Institute for Truth in Accounting, “The Truth About Balanced Budgets—A Fifty State Study,” Page 35
- Wisconsin Department of Administration Website, accessed November 18, 2009
- The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Does Wisconsin have a budget deficit?" January 22, 2012
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