Senator Fitzgerald on Capitol City Sunday

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) discussed the state budget on WKOW’s Capitol City Sunday with Greg Neumann this week.

Fitzgerald was asked how his caucus will prioritize any additional revenue after revised estimates are announced next week. He said the estimates are likely to be lower than hoped and the first priority is K-12 education, followed by the state’s transportation needs.

When asked about Governor Scott Walker’s proposed $300 million budget cut to UW System, Fitzgerald said he had less of a commitment to decrease the cut after the Board of Regents approved tuition increases on out-of-state and professional students earlier this month.

Despite the unpopularity of the proposed cut — one poll found seventy percent of the state opposed — Fitzgerald told Neumann that some legislators still have a bitter taste in their mouths after the budget surplus issue of the last biennium.

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Joint Finance Committee Update

The Joint Finance Committee has met three times in recent weeks to vote on motions related to the 2015-17 biennial budget (Senate Bill 21). Committee Co-chair Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette) said Wednesday he did not expect to meet next week, as the committee waits on revised revenue estimates due in early May.

Legislative leaders have previously said they would direct additional revenue, if available, toward K-12 education, transportation needs, and the University of Wisconsin System. However, recent statements by Governor Walker and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald indicate revenue estimates may come in lower than hoped, leaving little extra funding for the university.

PROFS continues to meet with legislators, including members of the Joint Finance Committee, advocating for the best possible budget for UW-Madison faculty.

The following topics have been discussed by Joint Finance:

  • Circuit Courts and Supreme Court
  • Health Services, Medical Assistance
  • Historical Society
  • Insurance
  • Lottery
  • Military Affairs
  • Natural Resources
  • Public Service Commission
  • Secretary of State
  • Tourism
  • Transportation (in part)
  • Veterans Affairs
  • Wisconsin Technical Colleges

A cumulative list of budget papers is here:

 

Chancellor Blank: Public Research Universities are Centers of American Innovation and Education

Chancellor Rebecca Blank offers her view on public research universities and their role in Tuesday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Blank writes that top public research universities like the University of Wisconsin-Madison play an important role in keeping the United States at the forefront of the global economy by educating the majority of skilled workers. At the same time, public research universities conduct basic research that is essential to future innovations:

“The importance of research universities in educating top scientists, engineers and doctors is well understood. But the second part of our mission is equally important and often forgotten or misconstrued. Those who criticize our faculty for not teaching enough fail to recognize that teaching is only half their work.

At a research university, faculty are expected to actively engage in producing and publishing research results. And most faculty are expected to raise the money needed to support their work by writing proposals to federal agencies, foundations and private industry.”

Blank acknowledges that funding for research has slowed in recent years, with potentially devastating consequences as other nations increase their research funding.

“This nation’s public research universities are centers of American innovation and education. Maintaining these institutions and maintaining strong federal funding for their research on big, complex and important problems is critical to keeping this nation competitive in today’s global economy.”

The full article is here.

Senate Leaders Disagree on Proposed Cuts to UW System

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Schilling (D-La Crosse) appeared on UpFront with Mike Gousha on April 12 and agreed on little, including Governor Scott Walker’s proposed $300 million cut to the University of Wisconsin System.

Fitzgerald said he believes the quality of a University of Wisconsin education will not suffer as a result of budget cuts — “I think they will be fine in the end” —  while Schilling maintained the proposed cuts have already adversely affected campuses around the state, citing already-announced buyouts at five campuses. Schilling also said time to degree could increase as a result of the cuts.

Discussion about UW System begins at the 3:45 minute mark.

Governor Walker: Freeze Tuition for Two Years, Tie Future Increases to Inflation

Governor Scott Walker said yesterday in a letter to the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Finance (below) that he continues to support public authority status for the University of Wisconsin System. Legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle have expressed concern over the proposal, with Joint Finance Committee Co-chair John Nygren (R-Marinette) saying the plan had little support among Assembly Republicans and is “dead in our caucus.”

Walker also said he intends to limit tuition increases to no more than the annual change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) after a two-year freeze, saying the move would protect students and parent from unpredictable tuition increases.

UW System President Ray Cross said in statement (below) that tying tuition increases to CPI “is not compatible with the agile, market-driven, and competitive entity the state needs us to be.”

The governor also said he would not change statutory language regarding the university’s mission, thus keeping the Wisconsin Idea intact.

Spring Election Tuesday, April 7

election dayThe spring general election will be held Tuesday, April 7. Polls are open statewide from 7 am until 8 pm. More information on registration and voting in Wisconsin is here.

Photo identification is not required to vote in this election, but will be required to vote in future elections.

One statewide race is on the ballot — incumbent Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley faces challenger Rock County Circuit Court Judge James Daley.

Voters will also be asked to vote in a referendum on the election of the Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice. Currently, the longest-serving justice is chief justice. The proposed amendment would select a chief justice through an election by the majority of the Court. The elected chief justice would serve a two-year term.

There is one state legislative race on the ballot — former Representative Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) faces token write-in opposition to represent the 20th Senate District (Cedarburg, Port Washington, West Bend). The seat became vacant when State Senator Glenn Grothman was elected to Congress last November.

Voters in Madison will choose between incumbent Paul Soglin and challenger Scott Resnick, both graduates of UW-Madison, for mayor.