First Look at the State Budget

Basc_window_Capitol06_0261Governor Scott Walker presented his 2011-13 biennial budget to a joint session of the legislature earlier today, and it offered few surprises. As expected, the proposal includes huge cuts to two of Wisconsin’s largest expenditures — K-12 education and aid to local governments.

While the budget calls for UW-Madison to become a public authority separate from UW-System and affords the university the flexibility Chancellor Biddy Martin requested, it also slashes the university’s appropriation from the state. Walker intends to cut $250 million from UW System’s budget, including $125 million cut to UW-Madison, which represents a 13 percent reduction in GPR funding to the campus.

Chancellor Martin has not offered specifics regarding how the campus will respond to the cuts, but said decisions will be made over the next two months:

“We will deal with the cuts using a combination of tools — savings from flexibilities and new forms of budgetary authority, thoughtful approaches to tuition increases, efficiencies we gain from the study of our administrative functions, and necessary cuts to our budgets.”

These discussions of course must involve shared governance structures and members of the faculty look forward to active input into this process and these decisions.

The campus community is invited to participate in two forums on the budget — Wednesday, March 2, at 9 a.m. in the Ebling Symposium Center on the first floor of the Microbial Sciences Building, 1550 Linden Drive; and Tuesday, March 8, at 1:30 p.m. in Plenary Room of Grainger Hall, 975 University Ave. The chancellor and other UW-Madison officials will also participate in an hour-long web chat Wednesday, March 2, at 3 p.m.

Other items of note in the budget:

  • $250,000 over the biennium for UW-Milwaukee to study becoming a public authority.
  • An elimination of the eligibility requirements for Milwaukee students participating in the school choice voucher program. The program is also expanded to include private schools in suburban Milwaukee County.
  • The Wisconsin Covenant program, started by former Governor Jim Doyle, will be phased out after September 30, 2011. The program provided qualified students with financial assistance to a participating Wisconsin college.
  • The elimination of the requirement that local governments operate recycling programs.
  • A rollback of the state’s phosphorus regulations so they are no more stringent than those of neighboring states.
  • A restoration of the requirement that participants in the W-2 program work at least 28 hours per week. Monthly benefits would also be cut by $20 per month.
  • Repeal of former Governor Doyle’s earned release program for non-violent offenders, effectively increasing prison population.
  • Increased staffing for DNA analysts at the state crime lab, investigators of child pornography and prosecutor of drunken drivers.