Wisconsin budget forecast improves by $2.9 billion

Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison

Wisconsin's budget picture improved by nearly $2.9 billion with a revised forecast released Tuesday driven by higher-than-expected tax collections that will force the Republican-controlled Legislature to decide whether to spend the surplus, save it or put it toward tax cuts.

The Republican leader of the Senate said the money would go toward tax cuts in the next budget to be written in 2023.

"We will not be foolish with these tax dollars by spending them into the future," Sen. Devin LeMahieu said in a statement. "Rather, we will focus on further tax relief in the next budget to continue our state on a positive trajectory and ensure the long-term health of the state budget and, more importantly, family budgets."

Gov. Tony Evers, who signed two Republican-authored budgets into law that cut taxes, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He is up for reelection in November. Whoever wins that election will be proposing the next budget for the Legislature to consider.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau forecast is for taxes to be collected by the middle of 2023. It is a revision to forecasts used when the Legislature passed the two-year budget last summer. The improved outlook is due mostly to an estimated $2.5 billion in higher tax collections than previously anticipated, caused in part by an influx of federal funding and stimulus money.

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"We must continue to be vigilant," the Republican co-chairs of the Legislature's budget committee, Sen. Howard Marklein and Rep. Mark Born, said in a statement. "We are well positioned for the future when all of the one-time federal funding will end."

Under the latest forecast, the state will have a $3.8 billion surplus by July 2023.

It's the latest in an unprecedented string of improved projections. In June, the fiscal bureau improved the forecast by $4.4 billion and the latest projection is $2.9 billion higher than that.

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