The Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau last week added another $346 million to the state’s budget deficit, pushing the total figure in the current and next biennium to $5.75 billion.

The report followed Gov. Jim Doyle’s warning the previous night in his state of the state address that the deficit was on the rise and difficult decisions and sacrifices would be needed. The record deficit tops the $3.2 billion budget hole Doyle inherited when he took office six years ago.

“Because of the collapse that began in September — which many fear is going to continue to get worse before it gets better — Wisconsin is facing a budget gap that had been estimated at $5.4 billion, or 17% of our biennial budget,” Doyle said. “That figure, unfortunately, is going to grow with the latest data. States everywhere are looking at similar pictures, and the responses are dramatic.”

Doyle has warned that all options for cutting the deficit are on the table, but he hopes to avoid any increases in the state’s main taxes. He said spending cuts would be required but he hopes to protect public school, health care, and public safety programs.

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