Governor Scott Walker delivers his budget address that would “grow Wisconsin’s economy” while “reforming state government.”
Walker’s 2015-2017 spending plan would cut funding for the University of Wisconsin System by $300 million and implement a tuition freeze in exchange for giving the university greater autonomy. “Our budget will continue the tuition freeze for undergraduates from Wisconsin at each of the UW system campuses,” Walker says, “And we will add a tuition freeze in our technical colleges for high demand areas. ”
University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross responds to Walker’s budget:
“As part of his budget proposal, the governor has embraced the idea of designating the UW System as a public authority. Increased autonomy and flexibility will allow us to use our resources more efficiently and provide significant savings and benefits over the long term. I strongly believe this authority, and the dedicated funding stream proposed by the governor, provide the architecture and resources to stabilize our future. This will put us in a better position to continue to deliver a quality academic product.
“The governor’s budget also reduces state support of the UW System by $300 million over the 2015-17 biennium. This is a serious cut that will force each institution and campus within the UW System to make difficult decisions about its workforce and programming. We are hopeful that we will be able to work with our partners in the legislature to mitigate and reduce this cut in the coming months.
“The combination of increased autonomy and the significant reduction in state support will change the way the UW System looks and operates. As with every budget, there will be a thorough and thoughtful discussion with the legislature, the public, and the administration about this proposal. We look forward to participating in that process to ensure the continued excellence of our world-class university.”
Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce President/CEO Kurt Bauer also responded specifically to the UW portion of Governor Walker’s budget:
“Wisconsin is fortunate to have a world-class public university system to provide our economy with a pipeline of highly skilled employees and groundbreaking research. Protecting that system is a critical priority for Wisconsin’s business community. That is why WMC applauds Governor Walker for his creative budget proposal to offer greater autonomy to the University of Wisconsin System.
Businesses expect taxpayer supported universities to work with private sector employers to develop programs of study relevant and responsive to the current needs of the economy. The governor’s call for greater autonomy will better equip the UW-System to respond to market demands and to overcome funding challenges.
The governor’s reforms will set the UW-System on a path for long term success. That is good news for taxpayers, parents, students and employers.”
The governor wants to pay for transportation needs with $1.3 billion in borrowing, something GOP legislative leaders are already questioning. A Marquette University Law School Poll shows residents want better transportation infrastructure, but oppose higher gas taxes and vehicle registration fees.
Walker touted the “value of hard work,” and his controversial plan to require drug testing for food stamps and other public benefits. “The next step is to require able-bodied adults without children to pass a drug test in order to get a welfare check. For those who fail, we will provide treatment, so we can help them get off of drugs.”
Homeowners property taxes will slightly decrease, with a proposed property tax reduction of $300 million over the next two years. The potential presidential candidate also wants to lift the 1,000 student enrollment cap on vouchers schools statewide, but Democrats are upset with essentially no increase for public school funding. “Crumbs for public schools and unlimited increases for voucher schools,” said Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha).
The so-called “Freedom and Prosperity” budget includes “significant reductions” across state government to deal with a projected revenue shortfall of more than $900 million in the biennium. The deficit would be $2.2 billion, if all agencies got the additional funding they wanted.
Not in his speech, but in the budget proposal is a $5 million cut from the Educational Communications Board, which runs Wisconsin Public Television and Wisconsin Public Radio.
The state would borrow $220 million for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena. Walker wants to tax NBA players to help pay that money back.
Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt issued a statement following the budget address:
“Hard-working Wisconsinites want to see a budget that supports good job creation, higher wages for all workers and expands BadgerCare for the sick. This budget misses the mark. We have deep concerns about the impact of Gov. Walker’s plans to cut education and further disenfranchise the unemployed.
“Working people can see clearly that this budget is a checklist for Gov. Walker’s presidential ambitions and will only further hurt the hard-working men and women of Wisconsin,” said Stephanie Bloomingdale, Secretary-Treasurer. “Our families and our communities will take the brunt of this budget full of shortsighted and backwards priorities. We need to focus on creating good jobs with fair pay and improving the educational opportunities for the people that live here in Wisconsin.”
Walker’s $68 billion budget goes to full legislature to be examined.