As Wisconsin State Treasurer, I am one of three Commissioners of the Board of public land which oversees the Common School Trust Fund. Currently the fund invests over $800 Million which it uses to fund the public school library system. In addition, the Board oversees the State Trust Fund Loan program, which makes low interest loans to local cities and towns across Wisconsin for much needed public infrastructure improvements. For many municipalities, these projects could not find funding anywhere else
The Commissioners have given the Board authority to invest $43 Million in general obligation bonds and they have expressed a strong interest in investing this money in the Governor’s Budget Repair Bill with regard to the refinancing in the bill. That means that 1/4 of the proposed bonding would stay right here in Wisconsin. This is a win-win for every citizen in Wisconsin. Not only does this help close the budget shortfall, the interest earned will stay right here in Wisconsin, supporting public school libraries and continuing to provide our local communities a place to turn to help finance important public work projects.
The window on this closes Friday. For the state to realize the savings by June 30th, the end of the fiscal year, the refinancing has to occur by February 25th. The 14 Democratic Senators who are currently AWOL are blocking the ability of Wisconsin to invest in the best public interest of all of our citizens. As State Treasurer, I call on them to return to Wisconsin, pass this bill and allow Wisconsin to invest in itself.
In order for the Governor to eliminate the deficit Wisconsin is facing and balance the budget, he must make tough decisions. His Budget Repair Bill proposed last week was met quickly with criticism for concessions asked of state workers.
What was ignored in the cacophony was the fact that asking state workers to pay a percentage into their pensions and pay more of a percentage of their healthcare premiums doesn’t even touch the surface of eliminating the $136 Million shortfall we face July 1st or the $3.6 Billion shortfall projected for July 1st 2013. What was ignored was Governor Walker’s call to refinance debt.
Governor Walker wants to make sure BadgerCare is left sound so those in Wisconsin who need the most help aren’t left behind. By refinancing immediately, the Governor says he can save $165 Million to cover the shortfall for this year. He will announce next week, February 22nd, how he intends on battling the $3.6 Billion shortfall for fiscal year 2011-20113. But, again, refinancing is the larger part of the solution.
What is needed now is restraint, not incendiary comments from either side of the aisle. We must all work together to bring Wisconsin back from the brink. It is steps like these, some that may be hard at first to take, that will return Wisconsin to sound fiscal policy.