Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Walk-O-Meter

Identify $300 million in waste, fraud and abuse in state budget and eliminate it

Will -- through Commission on Waste, Fraud and Abuse -- identify $300 million in savings. "By also taking advantage of savings that have already been publicly identified such as $22.5 million per year in Wisconsin Shares fraud and $66 million per year in excessive overtime, we can save at least $300 million per year."


Updates

The numbers show this $300 million goal has been met

In the 2010 governor's race, Scott Walker put out a specific number when talking about cutting the "waste, fraud and abuse" in state government: $300 million.

Walker said he would set up a commission to identify such waste and then eliminate it.

In 2012, we noted that Walker had formed the commision as promised, and it published a report detailing more than $370 million in potential savings to the state.

Based on that, we rated the promise In the Works while watching how the governor would achieve savings.

After sifting through the commission's report and subsequent actions by Walker and state lawmakers, we believe he's met his goal.

Efforts to combat tax fraud and increase collections have shown results. Overall, anti-fraud collections are up $74 million, based on figures published by the state Department of Revenue.

Similarly, anti-fraud efforts in state welfare programs have brought in $48 million more.

The commission's report talked about ways to get state agencies to return, or "lapse," unspent funds back to the state treasury.

Walker claims $210 million on that front. There's some evidence for that figure, but we think $112 million better reflects true savings in that category.

Walker went after fraud in the state's Wisconsin Shares child-care program, the subject of the  "Cashing in on Kids,"  investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

We documented $44 million in cost savings there for 2012-13 alone.

Add in a $37 million increase in collection of overpayments of unemployment insurance benefits, and the total savings tops $300 million.

Walker claims additional savings from other measure, and we found some evidence for additional savings. We did not examine the complete list.

With that in mind, and because much of the proven savings is tied to ongoing anti-fraud and spending restraints, we think it's fair to say that $300 million a year can be saved.

Based on the evidence, we're moving this to Promise Kept.

Sources:

Interview with Walker campaign spokesman Tom Evenson, Sept. 23, 2014

Interview with Walker office spokeswoman Laurel Patrick, Sept. 16, 2014

Interview with Department of Revenue spokeswoman Nicole Anspach, Sept. 16, 2014

Interview with Bob Lang, director, Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Sept. 24, 2014

Interview with Waylon Hurlburt, Walker campaign, Sept. 23, 2014

Savings identified ... achieving them remains

On Jan. 10, 2012, Gov. Scott Walker's commission on waste, fraud and abuse in state government issued its final report. As the Journal Sentinel reported, it identified $456 million in spending it says can be avoided by changes in state, local and federal government.

How does it stack up compared to Walker's campaign promise on finding -- and eliminating -- $300 million of what he called "rampant” waste and fraud as government stood under his predecessor, Democrat Jim Doyle?

The report drew heavy criticism from some Democrats who said it overemphasized improving fraud detection in welfare programs for low-income people. Beefing up fraud detection in such programs was the main recommendation in the report.

Democrats also noted the commission report called for more aggressive collection of delinquent taxes owed the state, but Walker budget cuts prevented filling open positions in the Department of Revenue to accomplish that.

Beyond that, a close reading of the 147-page report shows it is far from a guarantee the state will save $456 million. Some of the recommendations are estimates and projections that may or may not materialize -- much of the projected $177 million in welfare-fraud savings would take up to 10 years to show up in full.

And some of the potential savings would depend on action by the federal government or by local government.

With the report, Walker's promise was met in part -- more than $300 million in potential savings to the state was identified. The document, the Journal Sentinel reported, says that $373 million of the targeted spending is by state government.

But the promise also involved going the next step and saving "at least $300 million per year.”

Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie told us Walker believes the changes ultimately will save more than $300 million annually.

We'll keep this one at In the Works and check back on this promise later in Walker's tenure.

Sources:

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Walker waste panel identifies nearly a half billion in savings,” Jan. 10, 2012

Governor"s Commission on Waste, Fraud and Abuse, final report, January 2012

The Wheeler Report, press release by Rep. Mark Pocan and Sen. Chris Larson, Jan. 10, 2012

Gov. Scott Walker press release, creation of Waste Fraud and Abuse Elimination Task Force, Jan. 25, 2012

Commission has begun meeting, first report due July 1, 2011

Walker"s waste commission held its first meeting in January 2011 and is beginning the process of seeking budget savings.

He created the panel, including public and private members, as one of his first acts in office in January. It"s initial report is due by July 1, 2011, wit ha follow up due Jan. 1, 2012.

Sources:

JSOnline.com, Waste commission to meet, Jan. 10, 2011

Associated Press, New government waste commission meets, Jan. 11, 2011