Another budget battle: Candidates for governor sparring over projected “structural deficit”

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MADISON (WITI) -- Another budget battle, and this time, the argument is over a projected "structural deficit" in Wisconsin's next two-year budget. The two candidates for governor are arguing about what it really means for taxpayers.

Governor Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke are engaged in a war of words over a lot of numbers.

"Scott Walker is a one-trick pony," Burke said.

"For the critics, it's selective amnesia," Governor Walker said.

A memo to lawmakers shows the state revenue fell $281 million short of what had been expected for the year. Legislative Fiscal Bureau Director Bob Lang wrote the reason: "The national economic forecast has been downgraded."

"Revenues are down, not because the economy isn't growing.  They're down in large part because taxpayers are paying less in this state," Governor Walker said.

"I don't think Governor Walker has made fiscally responsible decisions and the lagging economy is the biggest drain on our fiscal health," Burke said.

The memo forecasts a "structural deficit" -- which is the gap between the money going out, and the money coming in. It's a projection for the next budget based on current spending and revenue. It is an estimate, saying the state's finances could be out of balance by $1.8 billion in the next two-year budget.

"Again this is based on no growth, no change in expenditures. Our record has been every year we've been in office, we finished the year with a surplus. Going forward, every year I'm in office we'll finish with a surplus," Governor Walker said.

"He balanced his first budget, but then -- like a career politician -- he put special interests first.  He spent money that we don't have, and he made fiscally irresponsible decisions, including turning down hundreds of millions of dollars of Medicaid," Burke said.

When a $1 billion surplus was projected last year, Governor Walker cut taxes by more than $500 million.

Burke says she would hold the line on taxes and balance the budget with cuts.

"I balanced budgets my entire career, and it does take going through every single line item of the budget," Burke said.

"My belief is every time we have a surplus, I will give it back to the people who earned it -- the hard-working taxpayers of the state," Governor Walker said.

All of these numbers are estimates, and they can change based on the actual tax collections and real spending over the next several months.

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