Turns out Wisconsin is not facing as big a financial crisis as some have claimed.
A new report from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau shows that tax collections are running well ahead of initial projections.
As a result, Wisconsin could see an additional $636 million in revenues over the next three years, helping to close an estimated $3 billion budget deficit.
The rise in revenues is due mainly to higher income tax collections due to a booming stock market in 2009 and more business owners filing as individuals, the fiscal bureau said. Corporate and sales tax collections are actually coming in lower than predicted.
But despite the rosier outlook, Republicans are warning against any additional spending.
Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, says the updated tax projections "provide us with a real opportunity to balance our budget and help put Wisconsin's fiscal house back in order."
"These numbers lend proof to what we've been saying all along, which is that we can grow our way out of this deficit instead of trying hopelessly to tax and spend our way to prosperity," he says. "It is important that we use this momentum to get our state back on track, not dig another hole by spending like crazy."
Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, took a different tack, calling on Republicans to now reject Gov. Scott Walker's "draconian gutting of SeniorCare, replace some of Walker's devastating cuts to public education and roll back Walker's job-killing $250 million in cuts to the UW Ssytem." Pocan also called the additional revenue a "gift from the Democratic majority from the last budget," saying the additional revenue is the result of a move by the Joint Finance Committee to cut an additional $1.6 billion out of former Gov. Jim Doyle's budget.
Meanwhile, the Department of Revenue is reporting an uptick in the number of calls from taxpayers wondering about their refunds. The DOR customer service staff fielded 5,873 income tax calls the week of May 1-7.
"Nearly all of our contacts were related to refunds," says spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis.
The DOR says those who filed paper tax returns can expect to wait 8 to 10 weeks to get a refund.