MADISON — The state had a nearly $760 million surplus at the end of the fiscal year, the Department of Administration announced Monday.
That’s $89 million more than what was anticipated at the time the 2013-15 budget was passed this summer, said Bob Lang, head of the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
The news comes as the Legislature is considering Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed $100 million property tax relief plan, which is scheduled to be up for a vote before the Legislature’s powerful budget committee and the state Senate on Tuesday.
The Walker administration said the bigger surplus means that $153.2 million will be deposited into the state’s rainy day fund, for a total of $278.5 million.
“When we took office two years ago, we said we would be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money, and this report shows we’re on the right track,” Gov. Scott Walker said in a statement. “Our tough, but prudent, decisions are paying off for Wisconsin families.”
The stronger finish to the 2011-13 two-year budget period will put the state in a slightly better position for the next state budget than the $545 million structural deficit previously projected by the fiscal bureau. But the property tax relief could add to the structural deficit -- when revenue projections fall short of expected expenditures during a given budget cycle. Lang said he would have an updated projection Tuesday on the fiscal landscape lawmakers will face heading into the 2015-17 budget.
Also Monday, Wisconsin Democratic leaders said Democratic lawmakers will likely back the tax relief package, which is being delivered in the form of additional equalization aid to schools. But they questioned the timing of the fast-moving measure, which was unveiled by Walker and Republican leaders last week -- just a few days after Democrat Mary Burke announced she was getting in the 2014 governor’s race -- and could make it to the governor’s desk for his signature by the weekend.
The plan would cut property taxes on a typical Wisconsin home by about $13 this year and $20 the following year.
“We’re going to caucus tomorrow, so we’ll see where we’re at,” said Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee. “But Democrats support property tax relief.”
He said he thought Burke challenging Walker in the governor’s race had a lot to do with the timing of the announcement.
Assembly Assistant Minority Leader Sandy Pasch, D-Shorewood, agreed.
“Of course, everyone wants to vote for property tax relief,” she said. “But many of use are concerned with the speed with which this is progressing.”
Republican leaders celebrated the news about the boost in surplus.