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Federal stimulus package could take out half of state's debt

The federal economic stimulus package that's brewing in Congress could help Wisconsin wipe out more than half its budget deficit.

State budget director David Schmiedicke says around $2.5 billion in stimulus money could help pay for health care and education in the Badger State.

Another $575 million may arrive in the form of transportation projects.

But even if Washington provides $3 billion, that still leaves a deficit of $2.4 billion to be closed with state spending cuts and tax increases.

Schmiedicke told a meeting of the Wisconsin Credit Union League Tuesday that it's still a massive problem, the likes of which the state has never seen.

Legislative finance committee co-chair Mark Pocan of Madison said there are still more questions than answers about the federal aid the state might get. Pocan says his fellow legislators and Gov. Jim Doyle are working on their own stimulus package that could be ready by early next month.

Pocan, a Democrat, says it would loosen procedures to make it easier to spend the federal money.

It would also boost job training programs and address tax fairness issues.

Pocan didn't say what those issues were, but some lawmakers have talked about clamping down on tax-sheltering practices by corporations.