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EDITORIAL: Legislators need to focus on balancing budget

When the conference committee heads into executive session Wednesday, there's little doubt the dollars and cents discussion makes little sense to the public.

When the conference committee heads into executive session Wednesday, there's little doubt the dollars and cents discussion makes little sense to the public.

How could anyone understand -- the numbers just don't add up.

If you believe the Assembly Republicans, you would have to believe no tax increase means a break-even budget.

According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau budget comparisons, the Assembly budget comes with an additional $256 million in taxes and fees. The solution isn't putting off the bill for two years, precisely what will happen when the state's structural deficit climbs to a whopping $877 million.

The Assembly's budget does propose less spending than the Senate and Governor, but it will leave the state in worse financial shape in the long run.

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It's the equivalent of running a portion of a budget on credit -- without the means to repay the debt. Eventually, it catches up.

Senate Democrats, the Joint Finance Committee and governor are all guilty of it too, to lesser degrees. With structural deficits of $669 million to $728 million, that's a sizable chunk of change that needs to be addressed.

However, all three are proposing some hefty increases in the next two years. The governor proposed an 8.5 percent increase in state spending. The bipartisan Joint Finance Committee trimmed that to 8.3 percent, but the Democratic-controlled Senate had a crack at the ball and sent that up to a 9 percent increase.

That's without universal health care, which would increase spending 23.2 percent in the next two years.

We don't dispute that health care is an issue that needs to be addressed. However, we do believe the conference committee has its hands full trying to balance the budget and should stick to that task for now.

Healthy Wisconsin -- a laudable idea -- is only bogging down the budget process and should be considered separately, when there are answers to the many questions that must be addressed.

Give universal healthcare the time it deserves to avoid creating another costly health system that burdens the people its intended to help.

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