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State agencies want $7.5 billion more

By M.D. Kittle

Wisconsin Spotlight | Sept. 28, 2022

MADISON — As Wisconsinites face price spikes not seen since the early 1980s, Gov. Tony Evers’ agency heads are asking for a combined $7.5 billion in increased taxpayer money, according to a new analysis by the Institute for Reforming Government.

The 2023-25 budgets requests submitted this month by state departments seek a nearly 9.3 percent total increase from the current biennial budget — a full percentage point higher than the 8.3 percent annual inflation rate notched in August.

The latest report from IRG’s policy experts provides an overview of some of the more outrageous funding requests.

At a request of nearly $2.5 billion in new funding, the Department of Public Instruction is among the agency leaders in the money chase. DPI seeks a 15 percent funding increase.

“This is despite (the agency) serving fewer students than during the previous budget and after districts received $1.5 billion in federal recovery funding,” the report states.

Enrollment in Wisconsin’s public schools declined by more than 25,000 students between 2019 and 2021, according to DPI. Enrollment dropped by 800 students last year. Frustrated by the radical curriculum they witnessed firsthand during the virtual learning days of the pandemic, a growing number of parents have moved their children out of public schools and into alternative parental choice schools. With less than a third of Wisconsin’s public school students able to read, write and solve math problems at grade level, record education funding in recent years doesn’t seem to be improving the product.

The University of Wisconsin System is looking for another $435.8 million, $100 million of that to cover “inflationary costs of goods and services.” At the same time, the system wants to add 783 positions.

The Department of Health Services is asking for a whopping $3.73 billion in new funding — a 12.5 percent increase. DHS came up with the figure “after re-estimating the cost of the Medicaid program among other things,” the IRG report notes. The agency wants to add another 248 positions to its payroll of north of 6,100 employees.

Evers’ dysfunctional Department of Safety and Professional Services  is requesting a $20.7 million (17%) funding increase. DSPS seeks to fill 70 new positions. The agency has been slow to fill positions it says it needs to fix a statewide license crisis in which untold numbers of professionals have waited months for DSPS to process their applications. The stories of bureaucratic incompetence may only be exceeded by Evers’ Department of Workforce Development, which during the first year and a half of the pandemic made tens of thousands of out-of-work Wisconsinites wait for their unemployment benefits.

In the absolutely outrageous category, the state’s do-nothing Treasurer and Secretary of State offices are seeking 215 percent and 73 percent increases, respectively.

Evers and his bureaucrats are itching to spend the projected $5 billion state budget surplus on growing government, even as the state and nation face a worsening recession.

“This spending reflects the agencies’ all-inclusive wish lists,” said state Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam), co-chair of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee. “Early next year, the Legislature will receive the executive budget and other requests and the Joint Committee on Finance will begin crafting a budget that funds our priorities while ensuring tax dollars are spent wisely.”

Meanwhile, liberal Attorney General Josh Kaul, after years of silence on the left’s Defund the Police movement, now is asking for a 10.5 percent increase in the 2023-25 Department of Justice budget. He’s requesting a multitude of new positions, including 19 special agents and criminal analysts and 16 DNA analysts, toxicologists and crime scene response specialists. The budget request draws from Kaul’s $115 million “Safer Wisconsin” legislative package he released late last year.

Kaul blames Republican lawmakers for underfunding crime fighting. His Republican opponent, Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney, says law enforcement officers around the state have lost faith in Kaul’s leadership — as evidenced by the attorney general’s lack of law enforcement endorsements.

“I have bipartisan support from sheriffs and district attorneys across Wisconsin that have seen Josh Kaul’s failures of defunding the police at the DOJ by gutting DCI Agents and prosecutors,” Toney said. “Kaul’s also mismanaged our crime labs as Milwaukee is on pace for a third straight murder record during a period of historic violence and a drug epidemic.”

Toney said he would  immediately fill the vacant positions at the DOJ. The district attorney earlier in the campaign announced his Safer Streets, Safer Homes plan.

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