Legislative Update

Capitol_tulips94_10State Budget Update

The 2015-17 biennial budget process continues. The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee began meeting in executive session last month, but has yet to consider motions relating to the University of Wisconsin System.

Committee leaders have said they would like to conclude its work by the end of May, with the budget bill then moving to Senate and Assembly for their consideration. The entire process is expected to conclude in late June.

Public authority out of budget  Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette) and Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) announced today that the public authority plan for the University of Wisconsin System was dead and the committee would instead consider granting the university greater budget and management flexibilities.

Meetings with legislators  PROFS continues to meet with key legislators and lobby on behalf of faculty, focusing on senate resolutions on state budget cuts and shared governance and funding for the Chemistry Building project. Members of the PROFS steering committee have met with more than a dozen legislators and staff since the beginning of the year.

Size of budget cuts While some legislative leaders have expressed a desire to lessen the size of the cut to UW System, both Governor Scott Walker and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said revenue estimates expected later this week are likely to be lower than hoped and the first priority is K-12 education.

Fitzgerald also 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 said some legislators still have a “bitter taste in their mouths” after the budget surplus issue of the last biennium.

Tuition Freeze Governor Walker said in his budget errata message last month he intends to limit tuition increases to no more than the annual change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) after a two-year freeze. UW System President Ray Cross said tying tuition increases to CPI “is not compatible with the agile, market-driven, and competitive entity the state needs us to be.”

Many higher education experts believe the plan to be unworkable: “Because the costs associated with running universities naturally exceed the costs of basic goods and services as represented in the CPI, limiting tuition increases to increases in the CPI is the wrong yard stick to use and is also very likely to reduce the ability of Wisconsin universities to offer the same quality as they have in the past,” said Professor Michael McLendon of Southern Methodist University.

Board of Regents

The UW System Board of Regents does not have a May meeting scheduled, but will meet in Milwaukee on June 4 and 5. Governor Scott Walker is expected to name three new regents this month as Regent President Michael Falbo, Regent David Walsh and traditional student Regent Anicka Purath complete their terms.

Three UW-Madison faculty members will serve on Regent task forces on shared governance and tenure – Biomedical Engineering Professor Beth Meyerand is a member of the shared governance task force, while Kinesiology Professor Dorothy Farrar-Edwards and Plant Pathology Professor Patricia McManus will serve on the tenure task force.