Earlier this month, PolitiFact -- the fact-check website run by the St. Petersburgh Times -- deemed claims Rachel Maddow made about Fox News "false." Well, it seems Maddow is at again, and this time, PolitiFact is crying foul over bold claims made about Wisconsin's budget numbers, mainly that there is no budget deficit.
On Thursday, Maddow spent a chunk of her show advancing the popular, liberal rumor that Wisconsin is not facing a budget deficit this year, but rather a budget surplus. The governor's recent emergency budget bill -- which strips unions of much bargaining power -- is then simply an "assault" on hard-working people. Maddow, and others, point to an independent report authored by Robert Lang and Wisconsin's nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau:
Sounds damning. But it's not.
According to the Wisconsin division of PolitiFact, Maddow didn't read the fine print:
We re-read the fiscal bureau memo, talked to Lang, consulted reporter Jason Stein of the Journal Sentinel’s Madison Bureau, read various news accounts and examined the issue in detail.
Our conclusion: Maddow and the others are wrong.
There is, indeed, a projected deficit that required attention, and Walker and GOP lawmakers did not create it.
More on that second point in a bit.
The confusion, it appears, stems from a section in Lang’s memo that -- read on its own -- does project a $121 million surplus in the state’s general fund as of June 30, 2011.
But the remainder of the routine memo -- consider it the fine print -- outlines $258 million in unpaid bills or expected shortfalls in programs such as Medicaid services for the needy ($174 million alone), the public defender’s office and corrections. Additionally, the state owes Minnesota $58.7 million under a discontinued tax reciprocity deal.
The result, by our math and Lang’s, is the $137 million shortfall.
But what about Maddow's other claim, the one that says that if there is a deficit, GOP tax breaks are the reason for that deficit? Again, PolitiFact says Maddow didn't read the whole report:
Lang’s fiscal bureau report and news accounts addressed that issue as well.
The tax cuts will cost the state a projected $140 million in tax revenue -- but not until the next two-year budget, from July 2011 to June 2013. The cuts are not even in effect yet, so they cannot be part of the current problem.
"With the facts unveiled," writes Mediaite, "it will be interesting to see whether Maddow is willing to recalibrate her view."
The more likely possibility is that she'll just blame Glenn Beck.