Wisconsin Budget: What’s the Truth?

This is a variation of lies, damned lies and statistics. In the Wisconsin debate, it is politics and the budget.
The main argument for doing away for collective bargaining for the public unions in Wisconsin is because of a budget shortfall.
So– is there a budget shortfall?
Surprisingly, this is far from clear.
The Governor and pundits of all political stripes have weighed in. I found a website that claims to check the facts. It is done by the St. Petersburg Times.
Check it out: Fact-checking the pundits on Wisconsin’s budget

I saw one quote–but could not track to the source–that the short-term deficit is due to Walker’s new spending for business and corporations.

I also saw another article that disputed the longterm budget deficit–saying that it reflected agency proposals rather than actual obligations; the legislature has never allocates all the money agencies request, so this budget deficit is just smoke.

Then there was statements about how Wisconsin public employees, on average, earn more than those in the private sector. But we know averages are not always useful in comparisions, especially when there are outliers. Plus, you have to account for other factors, like type of work and education.


It is a reminder in any political controversy that first we need to find out the facts.There are three issues here. One is whether there is in fact a short-term and a long-term deficit. If there is, then the second issue is determining the cause of that deficit. Third, what is the projected savings, if any, of ending collective bargaining? Really–if this is not going to have much impact on the alleged budget shortfall, then why is the governor proposing this, especially in light of little public support for ending collective bargaining (see post below).

From a research perspective, policy should always begin with clarity about the facts of the situation so that any proposed solutions actually address the root cause of the problems.

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