Joint Finance Committee Votes to Cut UW Funding and Freeze Tuition

The Joint Finance Committee voted last night to freeze tuition for two years and cut funding to UW System. The committee’s bipartisan adoption of the omnibus motion supported Governor Scott Walker’s proposed tuition freeze, but rejected his plan for increased funding for UW System. Republican leaders of the committee said they will divert almost $100 million  to K-12 funding and tax relief.

Management flexibilities that were given to UW-Madison and UW System as part of the 2011-13 biennial budget were also removed. The Madison campus and UW System will not be able to determine their own compensation plans, and personnel systems that were to be approved last month will be delayed until 2015. Almost $90 million will be transferred to the state’s compensation reserve fund for possible future raises and benefit increases, and they are expected to match those of other state employees.

The motion also removes General Purpose Revenue funding and instead requires UW System to fund programs and economic development efforts with money from reserves. UW-Madison must  use reserves to fund $3.75 million for the Carbone Cancer Center and $1.5 million for the Wisconsin Academy of Rural Medicine Program. In addition, $58 million will be transferred from reserves to the Higher Education Aids Board.

The controversy over financial reserves continued to influence the committee. Joint Finance Committee Co-chair Alberta Darling used the hearing to call for the resignation or firing of UW System President Kevin Reilly, and several legislators from both sides of the aisle expressed disgust over the mismanagement of UW System. Senator Jennifer Schilling (D-La Crosse) said the committee’s action was a “legislative intervention.”

UW-Madison Interim Chancellor David Ward issued a statement on the committee’s action and expressed his concern:

“I am disappointed that the Joint Finance Committee felt it needed to eliminate any new state funding in the upcoming biennium.  While we are able to reduce our cash balances to cover the expenses that will not be covered by the state in this biennium, the additional ongoing reductions proposed by the Committee will make it more difficult to meet our operational obligations in future years.

Both houses of the Legislature must approve the budget before it goes to Governor Scott Walker for his signature.

ETA link to omnibus motion

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