NY Times gets it right on Walker's phony deadline | Wis.Community

NY Times gets it right on Walker's phony deadline

The NY Times' Richard Oppel's story on Wisconsin's budget repair bill:

One day left to save the state $165 million,” said the governor’s office on Monday, announcing the latest deadline. If Democrats do not return by Tuesday, taxpayers would lose an option to save that money through a “refinancing,” the governor’s office said, citing the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, a nonpartisan agency that conducts budget analysis...

But the assertion that taxpayers are on the verge of losing $165 million appeared nowhere in the analysis of the bill.

According to that analysis, which the bureau completed two weeks ago, the bill calls for restructuring $165 million in debt. Instead of paying the debt off in May, it would mean new debt would be issued, deferring the repayments. The restructuring would increase debt payments over the next two years by almost $30 million in principal and interest.

The Tuesday deadline appeared to be based on another analysis by the bureau that suggested that for the restructuring to happen, the state would have to order it done at least two weeks before March 16.

But nowhere in either analysis does it suggest that taxpayers would otherwise lose $165 million — just that the state would not be able to push back the repayment of that amount to a later date. The debt would still be owed, and taxpayers would still be on the hook.

That seems like pretty straightforward reporting. But it has, unfortunately, become a rarity.

Most reporters here have been content to report whatever Walker says without checking to see if there's any factual basis for it --in simple language, whether he's telling the truth.

In this case, he's clearly not. It is a phony deadline, and the taxpayers would not be saving any money if the bill passed -- they would be paying more in interest.

 On Monday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was still reporting on the "savings" if the bill passed. But by Tuesday it was beginning to qualify its description and call it refinancing:

Walker's plan would delay a $165 million debt payment that is due May 1 and instead spread the payment over 10 years. The measure will increase interest payments by $14 million total over the next two years.

That's an improvement over Monday's coverage, but the total interest to be paid by taxpayers will be $42-million over 10 years. The JS chose to use only the amount in this biennium.

In fairness, Dee Hall of the Wisconsin State Journal was ahead of the pack in pointing out that Walker's plan costs more, rather than saving money, as we acknowledged in an earlier post.

Published

March 1, 2011 - 9:36am

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