Governor Scott Walker delivered a State of the State address on Tuesday which contained few surprises. But the Republican governor seemingly caught Democrats and officials with the University of Wisconsin System off guard with the one unexpected item he did include.
“I am pleased to announce that our 2017-2019 state budget will do more than just freeze tuition,” Walker said. “We will actually cut tuition for all Wisconsin undergraduates throughout the UW system.” The governor said higher education costs were a major topic brought up by attendees at invitation-only listening sessions he held around the state. He provided no details.
UW officials reacted with caution. University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank issued a comment on Walker’s proposal:
“Like Governor Walker, our goal is to make UW-Madison affordable and accessible to all Wisconsin students. It is our hope that the governor and legislature will not only fully fund the proposed tuition reduction but also provide additional investment in the UW System in line with the modest request made by the Board of Regents, which is critical if we are to continue providing an outstanding educational experience to our students.”
And University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross also released a statement:
“The UW System applauds the Governor in his endeavors to keep college affordable for our students and families as we develop the workforce of tomorrow. We look forward to working with the Governor and the legislature in the months ahead to focus on those priorities, while continuing to advance the world-renowned excellence of the UW System.”
Walker also reiterated promises to provide additional funding for K-12 schools. “Our budget will include a significant increase for public schools. We will also help rural schools that have unique challenges such as transportation costs, broadband access, and declining enrollment.”
On transportation, Walker pledged to provide local governments with the largest increase in transportation aids since the 1990s, that can be used to fix roads and bridges and potholes in their communities. He also restated his opposition to any increase in the gas tax or vehicle registration fees. “I will keep the promise I made to the voters in the last election. Whether you agree with me or not, I hope you can respect that I will keep my word. We were not sent here by the people of Wisconsin to raise taxes.”