There is, indeed, a projected deficit that required attention, and Walker and GOP lawmakers did not create it. [...]
The confusion, it appears, stems from a section in [Director of the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau Robert] Lang’s memo that -- read on its own -- does project a $121 million surplus in the state’s general fund as of June 30, 2011.
But the remainder of the routine memo -- consider it the fine print -- outlines $258 million in unpaid bills or expected shortfalls in programs such as Medicaid services for the needy ($174 million alone), the public defender’s office and corrections. Additionally, the state owes Minnesota $58.7 million under a discontinued tax reciprocity deal.
The result, by our math and Lang’s, is the $137 million shortfall.
It would be closer to the $340 million figure if the figure included the $200 million owed to the state’s patient compensation fund, a debt courts have declared resulted from an illegal raid on the fund under former Gov. Jim Doyle.
A court ruling is pending in that matter, so the money might not have to be transferred until next budget year.
So, contrary to what Maddow and many in the media including on MSNBC have been claiming, Wisconsin does indeed have a budget deficit.
And what about that tax cut Maddow and others in the press have been focusing so much attention on? Well, they've been misrepresenting that as well:
The tax cuts will cost the state a projected $140 million in tax revenue -- but not until the next two-year budget, from July 2011 to June 2013. The cuts are not even in effect yet, so they cannot be part of the current problem.
Amazing. Politifact concluded:
There is fierce debate over the approach Walker took to address the short-term budget deficit. But there should be no debate on whether or not there is a shortfall. While not historically large, the shortfall in the current budget needed to be addressed in some fashion. Walker’s tax cuts will boost the size of the projected deficit in the next budget, but they’re not part of this problem and did not create it.
We rate Maddow’s take False.
Read more: Rachel Maddow Exposed for Lying About Wisconsin Having Budget Surplus | NewsBusters.org