Gov. Walker to skip $101 million in debt payments for second year in a row

MADISON -- €” For the second year in a row, Gov. Scott Walker's administration is skipping debt payments to help with the state budget's bottom line.

The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau released a memo Tuesday showing that Walker is skipping $101 million in payments. The move will cost taxpayers an extra $2.3 million dollars in deferred interest over the next eight years, according to the memo.

Fiscal Bureau Director Bob Lang said the Walker administration had initially told him it would delay $50 million in debt payments, later doubling that amount. Walker deferred $108 million in payments a year ago.

The tactic has been used by Democratic and Republican governors for years as a short-term budget-balancing move. Walker administration officials defended the move Tuesday.

"We have a proven track record of keeping the state's fiscal house in order," Laurel Patrick, a Walker spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement. "This is a prudent financial management tool that takes advantage of historically low interest rates in a process that has been utilized under previous administrations since 2002."

Democrats on the legislature's budget-writing Joint Finance Committee blasted the decision. They said it was proof that Wisconsin can't afford the tax cuts that Walker and legislative Republicans approved as part of the current budget.

"Gov. Walker can use every accounting gimmick in the book, but at the end of the day, it doesn't make him fiscally responsible," said Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee. "Every extra dollar spent on Walker's debt is a dollar that won't help solve the lead crisis, the juvenile corrections crisis or teach our kids to read."