Legislative Update

2015-17 Biennial Budget

Last month, Governor Scott Walker directed state agencies to prepare their 2015-17 biennial budget requests, and the Board of Regents approved UW System’s budget proposal last week. The proposal includes $95.2 million for the “Talent Development Initiative,” the implementation of new performance measures, and statutory language changes related to compensation, including the ability to offer merit pay increases.

Budget request highlights:

  • $30 million for a competitive grant program targeting six areas critical to the state’s economy: agriculture, finance, insurance/real estate, healthcare, manufacturing, transportation, and water research.
  • $27.3 to cover a pay plan funding gap. Historically, UW System funds about 30 percent of a pay plan increase with tuition dollars. The two-year tuition freeze has led to a funding gap, with many campuses holding insufficient reserves to cover the pay plan.
  • $24.4 million to increase the number of college graduates statewide, with much of the funding directed to the Course Options program, a program that allows high school students to earn college credits. Additional funding would expand the Flex Option degree program, improve the credit transfer system, and assist working and first-generation college students.
  • $22.5 million in one-time funding to assist with the creation of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) jobs. The money will be available to individual campuses through a competitive grant process.

The budget process is lengthy, beginning with formal introduction in January and final passage in late June. PROFS will be involved throughout the entire process and communicate regularly with faculty.

Tuition Freeze
Last spring, Governor Walker announced an additional two-year freeze on University of Wisconsin System tuition. The governor said his proposal was a direct result of the disclosure that UW System would finish 2013-14 fiscal year with almost $1 billion in reserve. The governor first called for a tuition freeze after UW System was found to have just over $1 billion in reserve.

Fall Elections
Governor Scott Walker faces challenger Mary Burke, former Secretary of Commerce and Madison School Board member. Earlier this week, former UW-Madison professor Charles Franklin released a new poll showing the race continues to be a toss-up.

The legislature will experience its largest turnover since the 1970’s. Six state senators and 21 members of the assembly announced their retirement earlier this year. The fall primary was held earlier this month, and the outcome of one primary — the 17th Senate District — is still unclear.

Voter ID
Governor Walker and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen
recently asked a federal court to reinstate the voter identification law that was passed two years ago, but never enforced as a result of several state and federal court challenges. Many legal experts believe the current federal challenge will keep the law on hold through the fall elections. PROFS lobbied against voter ID legislation.