78th Assembly District Candidate Forum

Kathy Cramer, Interim Director, Morgridge Center for Public Service

PROFS will host a public forum of candidates in the Democratic primary for the 78th Assembly District on Monday, July 21 at 7pm. The forum will be held in Room 1325 in the Health Sciences Learning Center. A map of the district, which includes much of the west side of Madison, is here.

Political Science professor Kathy Cramer, Interim Director of the Morgridge Center for Public Service, will moderate. Audience members will be able to contribute questions at the forum, but we encourage you to leave questions in the comments section below.

Madison alders Mark Clear and Lisa Subeck will be on the ballot on Tuesday, August 12. Clear has served on the Madison Common Council since 2007 and is currently executive director of Accelerate Madison, an association of digital technology busineses. Subeck has served on the Madison Common Council since 2011 and is executive director of NARAL-Pro Choice Wisconsin, a reproductive rights advocacy organization.

The winner of the primary will almost certainly win election in November since no other partisan candidates will be on the ballot.

The forum is free and open to the public.

University Boards and the New Normal

wiscapeJane Wellman, the executive director of the National Commission on College and University Board Governance, will visit UW-Madison tomorrow and participate in a discussion on changes to college and university boards.

University Boards and the New Normal, a conversation with Jane Wellman will be held at 4 pm on Wednesday, June 11 in Room 159 Education, 1000 Bascom Mall. It is free and open to the public.

The talk is sponsored by WISCAPE, the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education.

The continued defunding of public higher education has put enormous pressure on governance boards, and in some cases, resulted in changes to shared governance. Wellman will discuss these challenges and explore ways in which to improve the functionality of public-sector governing boards.

June Board of Regents Meeting

uw system logoThe University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents is meeting at UW-Milwaukee today and tomorrow, June 5 and 6. The regents will meet in committee Thursday morning and in full Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. Video and audio stream of the full meetings is available here.

Four new regents are participating in their first meeting — José Delgado, Eve Hall, UW-Madison student Nicolas Harsy, and UW-La Crosse student Anicka Purath.

The board will discuss the 2014-15 annual budget and begin discussion on the 2015-17 biennial budget process. UW System President Ray Cross told the Wisconsin State Journal he expects the current tuition freeze to continue into the 2015-17 biennium. Governor Scott Walker recently expressed support for a continued tuition freeze.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank has repeatedly said she would like to raise professional school tuition to levels similar to peer institutions, but Cross said the timing is not right for such an increase and tuition will be frozen for all undergraduate and graduate students, regardless of residency.

The board will also discuss plans to spend down financial reserves. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the current budget will spend down about 15 percent of the reserves, much of it coming from tuition reserves. UW System will carryover about $61 million in unspent tuition in 2014-15, down from $151 million one year ago.


Fall Election Update

Federal, statewide, and legislative candidates hoping to be on the ballot this fall were required to submit nomination papers to the Government Accountability Board by 5 pm yesterday, Monday, June 2. Nomination papers are subject to verification, and a full list of candidates is here.

There were few surprises, as most candidates had publicly announced their candidacy over the past several months. One exception is the surprise candidacy of former State Senator Gary George (D-Milwaukee). George served four years in federal prison after being found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the government in 2004. George filed papers to challenge longtime incumbent Congresswoman Gwen Moore, a Democrat from Milwaukee, saying public service is his calling.

Locally, Congressman Mark Pocan faces opposition from Republican Peter Theron of Madison. Theron holds a Ph.D in mathematics from UW-Madison and is a math instructor at Madison College. He ran against Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin in 2008, garnering 31 percent of the vote.

State Representative Brett Hulsey will appear on the Democratic gubernatorial primary ballot with Madison businesswoman Mary Burke. State Senator John Lehman will face Mary Jo Walters in the Democratic primary for Lieutenant Governor. The winners will face Governor Scott Walker and Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch in November.

The offices of Secretary of State, State Treasurer, and Attorney General all have crowded primaries:

Most incumbent legislators in Dane County face token or no opposition. However, first term Representative Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton) will face Middleton Republican Brent Renteria in the 79th Assembly District.

Two Democrats are vying to represent Assembly District 78: Alders Mark Clear and Lisa Subeck. The primary election will almost certainly decide the November winner; the top vote-getter has no opponent on the general election ballot.

States Still Funding Higher Education at Pre-Recession Levels

cbpp logoThe Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently released a report on public higher education funding, finding that Wisconsin is one of just eight states that continued to cut higher education spending in 2013-14.

All but two states are spending less per student than before the recession, but funding is beginning to improve after several years of cuts:

higher education funding 2013-14

The recession has resulted in steep tuition increases (28 percent since 2007-08 on average) and cuts in staff and programs. Tuition in Wisconsin rose more than 21 percent over the past six years.

Like Demos reported earlier, states have shifted the cost of higher education to students and their families through increased tuition and funding cuts. The CBPP found that tuition revenue is greater than state tax funding in 23 states.

Legislative Update

The 2013-14 regular legislative session ended last month and attention has shifted to fall elections.

PROFS was very active in the legislative process, registering positions on bills and maintaining regular contact with key legislators and staff on important issues like compensation, faculty governance, and funding for the university.

Classified Research AB 729, a bill that will allow classified research on UW System campuses, was signed into law. PROFS registered in favor of this bill.

Financial Reserves The legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance approved a revised plan for managing and disclosing UW System cash balances and fund reserves on May 6. The legislature directed UW System to develop a plan as part of the 2013-15 biennial budget (Act 20), and the Joint Committee on Audit requested additional changes after a plan was presented to them on November 20, 2013. The Board of Regents and audit committee approved those revisions, but the finance committee voted for several changes.

The finance committee-approved plan requires individual campuses that hold more than 12 percent of their total fiscal year expenditures in reserve to provide justification to the regents and submit a spending plan for tuition, auxiliary operations, general operations, and unrestricted program revenue. Campuses are not required to hold a minimum fund balance, but campuses with a deficit must report a savings plan to the regents. The plan approved by the regents and audit committee required minimum reserves of 10 percent and the reporting threshold was triggered when funds exceeded 15 percent of expenditures.

HR Design The legislature’s Joint Committee on Employment Relations approved new personnel plans for UW-Madison and UW System. The legislature directed the university to develop plans to be implemented by July 1, 2015 as part of the 2011-13 biennial budget, but never approved them. Chancellor Rebecca Blank told the committee she plans to request the authority to award merit raises, which are not currently allowed under state statutes.

Tuition Freeze Governor Scott Walker proposed an additional two-year freeze on University of Wisconsin System tuition. The governor said his proposal was a direct result of the recent disclosure that UW System will finish the current fiscal year with about $1 billion in reserve. Last year, the governor called for a two-year tuition freeze after the university was found to have just over $1 billion in reserve.

Voter ID Wisconsin’s voter ID law (2011 Wisconsin Act 23) was struck down April 29. United States District Judge Lynn Adelman wrote in his decision the law places an undue burden on minorities and the poor and violates the Voting Rights Act. Adelman’s ruling bars enforcement of the law. Governor Scott Walker said last month he could call the legislature into special session if the law was overturned, and State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said he will appeal the decision. PROFS registered against AB 7, legislation that became the state’s voter ID law in 2011.

Fall Elections The legislature will experience its largest turnover since the 1970’s. Seven state senators and 22 members of the assembly have announced they will not run for reelection. Legislators must declare non-candidacy by May 23, and nomination papers must be filed by June 2.

The Legislative Reference Bureau has prepared a bulletin on tenure and turnover in the Wisconsin Legislature between 1940 and 2012.