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Building budget generates deficit debate

Paul Snyder

The state’s two-year, $1.4 billion building program is at the center of a debate over possible solutions to Wisconsin’s ballooning budget deficit.

“In a sane world, it would be considered,” said state Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend.

Gov. Jim Doyle spokeswoman Carla Vigue on Friday said the building project budget is not under consideration as a budget fix.

“The governor will not be recommending cuts to the capital budget,” she said.

The state Building Commission last month approved the $1.4 billion package, after protest from GOP members over the amount of debt the state would incur if it approves every project.

But the debate now has spread to the rest of the state Legislature as Wisconsin’s $5.9 billion budget shortfall could creep as high as $7.4 billion.

“The most foolish decision we could make would be to abandon our commitment to building and the future of this state,” said state Sen. Robert Jauch, D-Poplar. “These jobs improve the economy and infrastructure and get people employed at a time when building is most economical.”

Several state projects could attract lower bids in a sluggish economy and highly competitive building market, Jauch said. Furthermore, he said, bonding to pay for the projects makes financial sense because the costs often are recouped.

“And if they’re coming in under the expected costs,” he said, “it all pays itself back more quickly.”
But Grothman said bonding will only dig a deeper financial hole for Wisconsin.

“Everything should be on the table,” he said. “There’s always a temptation around here not to worry if you pay for something with debt, but the fact of the matter is we’re only going to have to pay for these projects in the future.”

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