I’ve been working hard to increase my humility, but the recent economic buzz in Wisconsin is going to make that tough.
Two weeks ago, I predicted 2014 was going to be a good economic year. And then what happens? The state reports a budget surplus of almost $1 billion. As they say on the job site: “Nailed it!”
The fact is, Wisconsin’s economy is picking up steam faster than expected. The increase is not a hiccup, a blip or a statistical gas cramp. It’s real, and it looks like it will continue.
My friends inside state government tell me tax money is rolling in from all directions in quantities higher than expected. Sales taxes, income taxes, building permit fees, even corporate taxes are up.
We all can agree that people don’t just throw taxes to Madison on a whim. Therefore, people are earning more money and spending more money. Conclusion: Economic conditions are better.
If that’s not enough proof, consider this additional fact: 2013 real estate sales for south-central Wisconsin were the third best since 1991. There is no greater test of economic confidence than a family choosing to buy a new home. Realtors are telling buyers and sellers that 2014 will be more of the same.
Politicians know that nothing happens until someone goes to work. But once that happens, anything is possible.
As someone who gets paid to sit in the bleachers and watch the political game, I expect it to get exciting in Madison. Putting an additional $900 million into the state budget during an election year is like busting open a piñata at a birthday party. Everyone wants a handful, and there’s a mad scramble to get the most.
Gov. Scott Walker will lay out his ideas during his State of the State message Wednesday. Anything he proposes will need the support of majorities in the Senate and Assembly. Those two houses often don’t see eye to eye, but it is hard to imagine they won’t be able to agree on this one.
Since I’ve been so good at economic forecasts lately, I will take a shot at another prediction: There will be a big sigh of relief from property tax payers because a significant chunk of their tax overpayments will go back to them in some form of property tax relief, with smaller but more immediate reductions to income taxes.
Remember, you read it here first.