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Federal Dollars: A $19 Billion Slice of Wisconsin’s Budget Pie

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Governor Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Legislature made several high-profile rejections of federal dollars in the 2013-15 budget, the most notable of which was turning down federal resources targeted at reducing the number of people without health insurance. Despite the selective antipathy towards federal money, it remains a major component of the Wisconsin budget.

Wisconsin’s two-year budget includes more than $19 billion in federal spending. In fact, out of every dollar the state spends in the budget, 28¢ comes from the federal government.

State budget documents show that:

  • Just over half (52%) of the federal dollars spent through the state’s biennial budget flow through the Department of Health Services. This money – $10.3 billion – primarily supports the state’s Medicaid and BadgerCare Plus Program, which provides health care coverage for low-income families and individuals.
  • Another $3.7 billion in federal money (19% of the total federal dollars in the budget) goes to the University of Wisconsin.
  • Significant amounts of federal dollars also flow through the budget to support Wisconsin’s transportation infrastructure, K-12 schools, and child safety, as shown in the chart below.

Additional federal dollars flow directly to individuals or businesses in Wisconsin, bypassing the state budget. Social Security payments, defense contracts, SNAP (food stamp) benefits, and the federal Earned Income Tax Credit are examples of federal dollars coming into the state that don’t show up in the state budget.

Although some state lawmakers seem to regard federal money as somehow tainted, federal dollars continue to make up a large part of Wisconsin’s state budget. Federal resources are critical to making investments in Wisconsin’s workforce, education, and communities that are necessary for businesses and families to thrive.

Tamarine Cornelius

Photo by cimexus released under a Creative Commons license.

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WI Budget Project

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