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Wisconsin's Political Crisis Is a Good Deal More Serious Than Its Fiscal Crisis

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Wisconsin's Legislative Fiscal Bureau [1] was created in 1968 by a Republican governor, Warren Knowles, and a Republican-controlled state legislature.

The purpose was to establish a nonpartisan agency that would provide honest fiscal analysis and information for Wisconsin Legislators. Across more than four decades, the bureau has done just that, earning the respect of legislators from both parties, including a young Scott Walker, who frequently cited the bureau when he served in the state Assembly.

Less than a month ago, a Fiscal Bureau memo [2] reported that the state had a $121.4 million surplus through the remainder of the current fiscal year.

That is a fact that is now under attack by Governor Walker, whom the conservative publication Human Events refers to as the "new hero" of the Republican right. Walker argues that -- as Republicans and Democrats have acknowledged for some time -- the state's fiscal house is not in order and that unsettled issues relating to a payment due Minnesota after the canceling of a tax agreement, as well as rising healthcare and prison costs, could well create a shortfall before the end of the year.

So it is possible that Wisconsin might need a budget repair bill of the sort Walker has proposed before the fiscal year is finished, as it has in many years.

But Wisconsin has not reached the statutory trigger -- roughly $188 million -- that would demand a repair bill.

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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