The state’s decision to balance the budget on the back of the UW System is drawing some criticism in business circles. Last month, the Walker administration announced the state’s billion budget was balanced through the use of a $174 million lapse – with the UW System absorbing 38 percent of those cuts. On Tuesday were at the Capitol to voice their concerns over shouldering what they see as a crippling burden – the requirement to return millions of dollars to the state over two years.
AUDIO: Bob Hague reports (1:15)
The University officials didn’t come alone – they were accompanied by business leaders. “I’m well aware of the situation that our state government is in, but I’m also aware of the hurt that is being put on students and education,” Culver’s CEO Craig Culver told members of a state Senate committee. “Like almost everybody, I don’t care to pay more taxes, but I will. Especially if it means our students education and their futures will benefit.” UW System officials, faced with the requirement to return $65 million to the state, have said that the impact of the budget lapse will inevitably be felt by students, in the form of tuition increases.
AUDIO: Craig Culver (2:40)
“If there’s one thing that bugs me – it almost boils my blood – today, is seeing education and the university system vilified and used as a partisan political tool. It’s nonsense,” said Marjorie Wallace, Chancellor Emeritus at UW-Richland. “I believe the present proposed cuts could do irreparable harm to the state, and particularly to UWM,” said UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Mike Lovell. “I recognize the state must be fiscally responsible, but to place a great deal of burden on the budget lapse on the UW System is not only unfair, but will continue to erode the underpinnings on which the state of Wisconsin is built.”
Greater Milwaukee Committee President Julia Taylor said Milwaukee could be like Silicon Valley – but not if the state cuts funding to UW Milwaukee. “Even though Steve Jobs did not graduate from college, I assure you all his engineers did,” said Taylor. “When we’re talking about innovation, we need to realize it happens here. It doesn’t just happen in California, it doesn’t just happen in Boston. And we need it to happen here, if we’re going to have our kids and our grandkids stay here, and this tax base grow.”
AUDIO: Julia Taylor (6:00)
The informational hearing before the Senate Higher Education Committee was billed as bringing together administrators and chancellors from across the University of Wisconsin System to share their insights and discuss the challenges facing the System as the state enters 2012.