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In reading the Politifact article, I note that the so called $3.5 billion deficit was not a real deficit, but rather a "wish list" of expenditures by various departments. Groups within corporations, government agencies, and academia all play the game of "high balling" their budget requests knowing full well that they are going to be sliced as they go up the line. As Politifact states, Walker is comparing apples and oranges.
Also, Walker's half billion dollar surplus is largely the result of cuts to public education at all levels. In fact, Walker's cuts to public education of $1,038 per student since 2008 are the second largest in the nation. Alabama had the distinction of having the largest education cuts per student. Two of your neighbors, Minnesota and Iowa, increased spending per student.
Furthermore, Walker's decision to not expand Medicaid as a part of the Affordable Care Act denies some 235,000 Wisconsin residents access to health care. While BadgerCare has generally been a success story over many years, Walker has even bumped people off BadgerCare to seek health care on the federal exchanges. It's another way of hiding cost reductions.
The initial problems with the Affordable Care Act federal health care exchanges put Wisconsin behind your neighbor Minnesota in getting health insurance for the uninsured. Minnesota opted to build their own exchange. Wisconsin did not. Minnesota's exchange is being heralded as one of the big success stories, along with states like Kentucky and California. Wisconsin was well positioned to build its own exchange using their experience with Badgercare, but Walker followed the other Republican governors and left this to the federal government, perhaps hoping that it would fail.
In the meantime, those Wisconsonites signing up for health insurance on the federal exchange are finding premiums 2-3 times higher
than in Minnesota. That says something.
Finally on the matter of unions. Union membership in Wisconsin was 11.2 percent in 2012
and declining rapidly due in part to Walker's Act 10 initiative. By comparison, in Minnesota, union membership was 14.2 percent
and also declining but at a lower rate. So I don't agree that unions are a deterrent to economic growth.
In my view, significant future obstacles for attracting entrepreneurs to Wisconsin are the trends in education and the cost of health insurance. According to Enrico Moretti, economics professor
“Since 1980, data show that the economic success of a city has been increasingly defined by its number of highly educated workers. Cities with many college-educated workers and innovative employers started attracting more of the same, and cities with a less educated workforce and less innovative employers—such as traditional manufacturing—started losing ground."
"My research shows that scientists and software engineers are not the only ones who thrive as a result. Using data on nine million workers in 320 U.S. metropolitan areas, I found that for each new innovation-job in a city, five additional jobs are created—not only in professional occupations (lawyers, teachers, nurses) but also nonprofessional occupations (waiters, hairdressers, carpenters). For each new software designer hired at Twitter in San Francisco, there are five new job openings for baristas, personal trainers, therapists and taxi drivers. The most important effect of high-tech companies on the local economy is outside high-tech.”"
So I maintain that a state or community that wants to attract entrepreneurs needs to be highly competitive in turning out an educated workforce. Wisconsin hasn't done too badly in the past, but the future doesn't bode well for them as Walker slashes investments in public education. Of course he has also increased funding for school vouchers, but at the expense of public education for the greater good.
You can't cut taxes and balance the budget with spending cuts on essential social services and expect your communities to attract young skilled workers...not when there are better options in the neighboring state.