January 27, 2015

Governor Scott Walker’s UW plan: big cuts and greater autonomy

Bascom Hall (Photo: UW-Madison)

Bascom Hall (Photo: UW-Madison)

The University of Wisconsin system would have greater flexibility over its own resources, under terms of a proposal to be contained in Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s next budget. In exchange, the UW would have its state funding slashed by 13% – or some $300 million – over the next two years. Walker said the proposal would mean that Wisconsin taxpayers will realize $150 million in savings annually.

“Reforming the partnership between the state and the UW System will save money and allow the UW System the flexibility to better serve those seeking higher education,” Walker’s statement said. “The people of Wisconsin deserve a government that is more effective, more efficient, and more accountable, and this plan protects the taxpayers and allows for a stronger UW System in the future.”

Under the plan, the UW System would receive a block grant from the state’s general purpose revenues, with independent authority over spending. Resident undergraduate tuition – which has been frozen for the past two years – would remain frozen for two additional years, after which UW institutions will have flexibility to adjust tuition based on demand.

“Long term it will be a benefit, not only to the university system as a whole, but it will be a benefit to students,” Walker said in Milwaukee Tuesday. “The tuition freeze for the next two years will remain intact, and going forward we think we’re going to have a great system.”

UW System officials released statements as they reacted to the plan. System President Ray Cross said they had been prepared for significant budget cuts. “Make no mistake, the proposed cuts are substantial, and they will impact every one of our institutions,” Cross said.

Cross pointed out that the sort of flexibility offered by the Governor’s proposal is something that the system has long wanted. He said the flexibility would apply to procurement, human resources and some building projects.

“These flexibilities will allow us to manage pricing in a way that reflects the market and actual costs,” Cross said. “The flexibilities also ensure our continued commitment to affordability, accessibility and quality educational experiences for our students and Wisconsin families. ”

“The new public authority status proposed by the Governor for the UW System maintains the strong relationship between this outstanding public university and the people of this state,” said UW Board of Regents President Michael Falbo. “Under this new relationship, we will continue to be accountable to the people of Wisconsin.”

Senator Steve Nass (R-Whitewater), the vice-chair of the Senate Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges and a long-time UW critic, said the proposed plan would mean that Wisconsin families will face “tuition increase perils.”

“The Governor’s proposal on the UW System would leave tuition-paying middle class families absolutely defenseless from potentially massive spikes in tuition and fees starting in 2017,” said Nass. “I don’t trust the unelected Board of Regents to prioritize the plight of middle class families.”

Walker impresses conservatives at Iowa Freedom Summit (AUDIO)

Gov. Scott Walker (Photo: Andrew Beckett)

Gov. Scott Walker (Photo: Andrew Beckett)

Potential presidential candidate Scott Walker wowed a conservative crowd in Des Moines over the weekend. Walker was uncharacteristically emotional as he spoke at Saturday’s Iowa Freedom Summit. The governor told of threats he and his family received during the 2011 Act 10 protests, and touted accomplishments since he took office, including Act 10, tax cuts and reduced spending, education reforms, and even concealed carry.

“We’ve cut taxes in Wisconsin, we’ve reduced spending, we’ve balanced the budget, we took the power away from the big government special interests,” Walker said. “And you know what? The liberals didn’t much like that.”

AUDIO: Walker at Iowa Freedom Summit (23:00)

Walker said his “big bold reforms” were key to his electoral success in Wisconsin, where he’s been elected three times, including the recall attempt against him. “Common sense conservative reforms can actually work and they work in a blue state like Wisconsin,” Walker said. “If they work in Wisconsin, they can work anywhere in the country, right? I think that sends a powerful message to Republicans in Washington and around the country. If you’re not afraid to go big and go bold, you can actually get results.”

Walker hit on a familiar theme – and said it’s something politicians in Washington need to understand. “The measure of success in government is not how many people are dependent on the government. The measure of success in government is how many people are no longer dependent on the government.”

Walker also touched on foreign affairs. “We need leaders who understand that when freedom loving people anywhere in the world are under attack, anywhere else, they’re under attack against all of us who believe in freedom. We need leaders who will stand with our allies against radical Islamic terrorists.” saying leaders need to stand up to Islamic terrorism and stand with freedom loving people around the world.”

The Iowa Freedom Summit was one Walker’s most high-profile forays to date into a possible run for president in 2016, and he promised to return to Iowa often.

Let’s play two: Ernie Banks passes at age 83

Ernie Banks Rookie CardErnie Banks, known world-wide as Mr. Cub, became the Chicago Cubs’ first African-American player on Sept. 17, 1953.  He went on to become a two-time National League Most Valuable Player and 14-time all-star.

Mr. Cub passed away on Friday at the age of 83.

Banks, who hit 512 home runs and collected 1,636 RBI, was inducted in the MLB Hall of Fame in 1977.

Renowned for his sunny disposition, Banks loved the game and even when the Cubs were struggling, would proclaim “Let’s play two!”.  Banks was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom during ceremonies at the White House in 2013, recognizing his goodwill.

Banks started his professional career in 1950 with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues.  He took two years off to serve in the military, then he joined the Cubs. [Read more…]

Walker denies politics played a role in Kenosha casino decision (AUDIO)


Gov. Scott Walker (Photo: WRN)

Governor Scott Walker says the decision to reject the Menominee Tribe’s proposed Kenosha casino was purely about the potential financial impact of the project, not because of political pressure.

The governor on Friday rejected the $800 million development, citing concerns that the state could have to pay the Forest County Potawatomi up to $100 million if it moved forward. The tribe argues the state would owe money because of a gaming compact negotiated under then-Governor Jim Doyle. The Menominee Tribe signed their own compact this week that would have seen them cover those losses, but Walker says the potential for lawsuits did little to resolve concerns the state could still be on the hook.

AUDIO: Gov. Scott Walker on Kenosha casino decision (1:09)

Democrats argued Walker was using the potential for legal action as political cover, as he tries to appeal to conservatives ahead of a possible 2016 presidential bid. Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca, who represents Kenosha, said “I can’t help but wonder if the recent opposition of many Iowa conservative leaders played a role in the governor’s decision. If so, Gov. Walker has once again prioritized his own presidential ambitions over creating jobs and restoring economic opportunity in our state. The governor can no longer claim jobs and tourism are his top priorities, but perhaps pleasing Iowa conservatives are.”

Speaking to reporters in Milwaukee Friday, Walker denied politics played any role in his decision. “If it had been done for political reasons, I would have done it a long time ago,” Walker said. “The bottom line is, I said all throughout this process I wasn’t going to make this decision based on politics.”

Walker said staff had been working to resolve the conflict with the Potawatomi for more than year. With a February 19th deadline to make a decision looming though, it was becoming clear that was not going to happen. “We tried to run the clock down as far as we could to a final decision, to see if we could find an agreement…we’re not at a point where we can get that,” Walker said.

Audio courtesy WUWM radio.

Walker rejects Kenosha casino project

Artist's rendering of the Kenosha casino project.

Artist’s rendering of the Kenosha casino project.

The Menominee Tribe’s proposed off-reservation casino in Kenosha has been rejected by Governor Scott Walker.

The governor told the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Department of Interior Friday morning about his non-concurrence with the project. In a statement, Walker said “after a comprehensive review of the potential economic impact of the proposed Kenosha casino project, the risk to the state’s taxpayers is too great.”

The governor cited continued concerns about a previously negotiated compact with the Forest County Potawatomi, which operates a casino in Milwaukee. The tribe has indicated the state may owe them up to $100 million if the Kenosha project were to be approved, which Walker said would result in a huge hole in state finances.

The Menominee Tribe this week had signed a new compact with the state to address those potential financial losses. However, Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch had warned that the state could still face litigation if the project were to be approved.

The Menominee Tribe release a statement blaming the decision on the influence of the Potawatomi and Governor Walker’s presidential aspirations. Officials said they would be meeting with their partners at Hard Rock International in the coming days to explore their options.

Forest County Potawatomi Attorney General Jeff Crawford released a statement, saying they “agree with (the governor’s) determination that this project is not in the best interest of Wisconsin.”

Kenosha-area lawmakers respond to the governor’s decision