The Slatest

Scott Walker, Fiscal Responsibility Candidate, Orders His State to Skip Debt Payment


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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker touts the generous tax cuts he’s pushed through since 2010 to bolster his image as one of the 2016 GOP presidential field’s most high-profile fiscal conservatives. (One economically conservative activist told Slate’s Betsy Woodruff that Walker’s 2014 gubernatorial election was more important to him than every other election in the country combined.) But those tax cuts have not created the hoped-for economic growth, and even after big reductions in public spending, Wisconsin is in the midst of a budget crisis: Bloomberg reported Wednesday that the Walker administration will skip a debt payment of $108 million that is due in May.

Spokesman Cullen Werwie told Bloomberg that the state will restructure its debt obligations to avoid default, but the delay will result in a substantial increase in the cost of the loan for Wisconsin taxpayers. From Bloomberg:

Walker’s plan would increase debt-service bills by $545,000 in the next budget year, which starts July 1, and by $18.7 million in the one after that. […] Since taking office in 2011, Walker has steered more than $2 billion in tax cuts through the Republican-controlled legislature. The state reported a $759 million surplus on June 30, 2013.

On the whole, Walker will need to make up a $283 million gap before June to comply with the state’s balanced budget amendment. And over the next two years of a budgetary period beginning in July, nonpartisan projections indicate, Walker will need to find another $648 million—and keep in mind, Wisconsin spending has already been cut to controversially low levels—to make ends meet. Much like his 2016 campaign, Walker’s high-profile budget problems might just be getting started.