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UW System Budget Post-Mortem: Gov. Walker’s Vetoes

by Noel Radomski, WISCAPE Director and Associate Researcher | Jul 13, 2015

Now that Governor Walker has signed the 2015-2017 Wisconsin biennial budget, completed his 104 vetoes, and officially announced his presidential campaign, here is a list of his vetoes that will affect the UW System. Following in the footsteps of the immortal Detective Sergeant Joe Friday, “Just the facts, Ma’am,” and thus I offer no comments. More to follow.

Page 4

9. Appointment of Director of Office of Educational Opportunity
Section 9148 (4g)

This section requires the president of the University of Wisconsin System to appoint a special assistant to the president to serve as the director of the Office of Educational Opportunity within 120 days of the effective date of the budget bill.

I am vetoing this section in its entirety to remove the requirement that the special assistant be appointed within 120 days of the effective date of the bill because I object to an arbitrary timeline. I expect the University of Wisconsin System to conduct a thorough search for a dynamic and reform-minded individual to fill the role of director of the Office of Educational Opportunity, and such a search cannot be conducted under artificial deadlines.

Page 5

10. Director of Office of Educational Opportunity Salary

Section 1207g

This section specifies that the Board of Regents shall set the salary for a newly-created special assistant to the president of the University of Wisconsin System, who shall serve as the director of the new Office of Educational Opportunity.

I am vetoing this section in its entirety because I object to the dissimilar treatment of this special assistant position and other special assistant positions in the system. Under current law, the Board of Regents sets the salaries for the top executive positions at the University of Wisconsin System, such as chancellors and vice presidents. Current law does not provide authority for the Board of Regents to set the salaries of any special assistant positions; these are addressed within personnel systems, and the director of the Office of Educational Opportunity should be treated similarly.

Page 8

17. Allocable Student Fees
Sections 1139g and 1142m [as it relates to responsibility for allocable student fees]

These provisions modify current law to specify that students at University of Wisconsin institutions and colleges would have the responsibility for recommending the disposition of student fees subject to the approval of the chancellor and final confirmation of the Board of Regents.

I am vetoing section 1139g and partially vetoing section 1142m [as it relates to responsibility for allocable student fees] because I object to removing the students' role in determining how segregated fees to support student activities and services are allocated. Students should retain the responsibility to decide the disposition of fees that they pay and that support campus student activities. As a result of this veto, the students will continue to work in consultation with the Chancellor, subject to the final confirmation of the Board of Regents, to determine the disposition of fees that support student activities.

18. Annual Financial Audit
Section 9148 (7j)

This section suspends current law requiring the Legislative Audit Bureau to conduct annual financial audits of the University of Wisconsin System during the 2015-17 biennium. Instead, the Board of Regents is required to contract with an independent accounting firm to conduct the annual financial audit. The audit must be provided to the Board of Regents, Joint Legislative Audit Committee, Joint Committee on Finance and the Governor. It also allows the Legislative Audit Bureau to work with the independent accounting firm to conduct the audit.

I am vetoing this section because I object to this limitation of the Legislative Audit Bureau's role in maintaining effective oversight of the University of Wisconsin System. Since the University of Wisconsin System will remain a state agency, continued financial audits and program evaluations from the Legislative Audit Bureau are appropriate to provide the public with continued insight into the financial and management practices of the Board of Regents.

Page 8-9

19. Energy Conservation Master Lease Program
Sections 29, 29m, 35m, 41m, 55m, 364m [as it relates to eligible energy conservation projects], 366m [as it relates to eligible energy conservation projects], 375m, 378t, 392g [as it relates to eligible energy conservation projects], 392r [as it relates to eligible energy conservation projects] and 1176m

These sections create a new program through which the University of Wisconsin System may use master lease financing for energy conservation projects. The president of the University of Wisconsin System would select qualified providers outside of current law regarding bidding procedures. In addition, the president would oversee the implementation of these projects without Building Commission or Department of Administration oversight or approval. Eligible projects would be required to meet the following criteria: (a) the estimated cost of a project must be offset by the estimated savings after completion of the project; (b) all savings from the project must be guaranteed by the provider through a performance contract; (c) savings must be realized within 10 years; and (d) estimated savings for each project must be measured and verified in a manner established by the president. The system also would have the ability to continue to participate in the Department of Administration's energy efficiency program for project financing.

I am vetoing sections 29, 29m, 35m, 41m, 55m, 375m, 378t and 1176m in their entirety, and partially vetoing sections 364m, 366m, 392g and 392r [as they relate to eligible energy conservation projects], to eliminate the new master lease program. While I support the concept of using master lease financing to accomplish energy efficiency projects, I object to the lack of accountability in this proposal. The state is responsible for initial financing of any master lease project, and requires assets with bona fide value to secure what essentially is a loan to an agency. Therefore, a measure of accountability is needed for such a program. I am requesting that the system, Legislature and Department of Administration work together to craft a more judicious proposal that provides the system with additional financing opportunities while protecting taxpayers.

Page 9

20. Investment of Certain Funds
Section 1162r

This section allows the Board of Regents to invest auxiliary enterprises revenues, gifts, grants, donations and segregated fees for building projects outside of the State Investment Fund. It also requires the Board of Regents to directly employ a financial manager, contract with the State of Wisconsin Investment Board or hire an investment firm to manage any investments outside of the State Investment Fund.

I am partially vetoing this section to allow the Board of Regents to invest only gifts, grants and donations outside of the State Investment Fund. Since the University of Wisconsin System will remain a state agency, I believe that revenues generated by University of Wisconsin institutions should remain in the state treasury and be invested in the State Investment Fund. Allowing the Board of Regents to invest gifts, grants and donations outside the State Investment Fund is consistent with the flexibility to conduct building projects funded with gifts and grants without Building Commission and Department of Administration approval and oversight.

Pages 9-10

21. Gift and Grant Funded Building Projects
Section 369t [as it relates the purpose of gifts and grants]

This section defines "UW gifts and grants project." This definition is utilized in two additional sections of the bill which collectively exempt University of Wisconsin building projects from Building Commission and Department of Administration approval and supervision if the project meets the following requirements: (a) the project is funded entirely with gifts and grants made for the express purpose of funding the building project; and (b) the project is let by the University of Wisconsin System using the current law single prime contracting process.

I am partially vetoing this section to strike the language "for the express purpose of funding the construction project." I object to this language because the requirement that funds be specifically earmarked for a certain building project is overly restrictive and burdensome. I support providing the Board of Regents with more flexibility in the planning and execution of certain building projects. As a result of this veto, the Board of Regents may plan and execute building projects funded with any gifts and grants funds outside of the Building Commission's process.

Page 10

22. Department of Administration Assessment for Program Revenue Funded Building Projects
Sections 365m and 9301 (3f)

These sections require the Department of Administration to assess the University of Wisconsin System on a fee-for-service basis for design and management of program revenue supported building projects. It also caps the amount the Department of Administration may assess the University of Wisconsin System at 4 percent of the total project cost.

I am vetoing these sections because I object to the vagueness of the concept of assessments using a "fee-for-service" model. I am directing the Department of Administration to develop a definition of "fee-for-service" within the context of project management and building construction. This will assist stakeholders in determining whether such a model should be employed. In addition, I object to the 4 percent cap on fees the Department of Administration may assess the University of Wisconsin System. Current law requires the Department of Administration to oversee all engineering, architectural and construction work and bid letting for University of Wisconsin System building projects supported by program revenue. Arbitrarily capping the rate at which the Department of Administration may assess for such work may prevent the department from recouping costs actually incurred on larger building projects, which may have negative impacts on other projects under the department's management.

23. Student Identification Numbers
Sections 1279, 4468e, 4468m and 4468s

These provisions repeal current law prohibiting University of Wisconsin institutions and private higher education institutions from using or incorporating a student's social security number as a student identification number.

I am vetoing these provisions in their entirety because the restrictions in current law are in the best interests of maintaining student privacy and protecting the integrity of student data.

Page 11

24. Procurement
Sections 316p, 321, 322, 327d, 328, 355s, 1204m, 3578p, 9148 (2d) and 9448 (2d)

These provisions require the Board of Regents to develop policies for procurement and submit those policies to the Joint Committee on Finance. If the Committee approves the policies, current law relating to state agency purchasing would not apply to the University of Wisconsin System.

I am vetoing these sections because the segregation of university purchasing from the rest of state government may result in unintended consequences. The University of Wisconsin System constitutes a majority of state spending on procurement contracts and, therefore, any discussions to remove the University of Wisconsin System from state procurement contracts should include the Department of Administration to allow both organizations to properly analyze and prepare for any changes. In addition, current law under s. 16.71 (1m) provides the Department of Administration with the ability to delegate to the Board of Regents and the University of Wisconsin-Madison the authority to enter into any contract for materials, supplies, equipment or contractual services relating to information technology or telecommunications. Therefore, I am directing the Department of Administration to work with the Board of Regents and the University of Wisconsin-Madison to continue to improve upon existing delegation agreements and develop a framework that provides these entities with more flexibility in purchasing and procurement while balancing the need to maintain the state's purchasing power.

25. Aquaculture Specialist
Sections 806g, 806r and 9448 (5j)

These sections provide tribal gaming funding of $100,000 annually for the Aquaculture Demonstration Facility, to fund a University of Wisconsin System-Extension aquaculture specialist position.

I am vetoing these sections because I object to the unnecessary use of tribal gaming funding for this purpose, and believe that if the University of Wisconsin System believes a position is needed to carry out the mission of the Aquaculture Demonstration Facility, it may reallocate system resources.

Page 12

27. Position Reports
Section 277m

This section modifies current law to require the Board of Regents to report annually, instead of quarterly, on the number of non-GPR full-time equivalent positions created or abolished by the Board of Regents in the previous 12-month period and specifies that the report be based on the October 1 payroll. It also deletes current law specifying that positions authorized for the University of Wisconsin System not be included in any state position report beginning on July 1, 2015.

I am partially vetoing this section to maintain current law that excludes University of Wisconsin System positions from state position reports. The University of Wisconsin System has transitioned to its own personnel systems (one for the University of Wisconsin-Madison and one for all other system employees), which simplify titling structures in a way that is specific to the university and establish a separate compensation structure. Therefore, it is inappropriate to include university employees in the same report as all other state government employees.

Page 12-13

28. Academic Staff Appointments
Section 1210m

This section prohibits the Board of Regents from making probationary or indefinite academic staff appointments beginning July 1, 2015. In addition, all academic staff holding probationary appointments on June 30, 2015, are transitioned to a fixed term appointment, while indefinite appointments are made permanent.

I am vetoing this section in its entirety because I object to making these changes without additional study to determine whether there are possible unintended consequences, particularly on certain programs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Page 13

29. Conservation Fund Appropriations
Sections 596g, 596r and 9448 (5k)

Section 596g specifies that, from the grants for forestry programs appropriation, in each year of the 2015-17 biennium, $124,400 be provided to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point for the paper science program and $10,100 (the remaining appropriation balance) be provided to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the Center for Cooperatives. For fiscal year 2017-18, sections 596r and 9448 (5k) restore the prior funding levels for the paper science program and Center for Cooperatives of $78,000 and $56,500 (the remaining appropriation balance), respectively.

I am vetoing these sections in their entirety because I believe existing funding levels from the conservation fund are appropriate, and that the University of Wisconsin System can reallocate other funds if needed for the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point paper science program.

Page 26

61. Unfunded Pension Liability Payments
Sections 293d, 293h and 293p

These sections seek to clarify that the secretary of the Department of Administration may require any state agency, including authorities, to make payments related to debt service payments on pension obligation bonds that were issued to cover unfunded pension liabilities. Section 293p explicitly states that the obligation related to unfunded pension liabilities for former University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics Board employees is the responsibility of the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics Authority now that the board has been dissolved.

I am vetoing these sections because I do not believe that current law needs to be clarified. Consistent with the current law payment methodology as administered by the Department of Administration, the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics Authority should continue to honor its legal obligation to pay the board's unfunded pension liability obligation in order to avoid shifting these costs to other state agencies and authorities and therefore, unfairly and disproportionately, to state taxpayers.

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  1. Mrs. Mary Furlong
    9-2-2015

         The Caps Program for high school students was free for students taking classes for college credits to be transferred to the college of their choice upon graduation. Why now are the students being charged $500.00 to take the Caps classes for college credit? Did Governor Walker decide that the students would have to pay $500.00 or is this coming from the State Board of Regents.

         This was a surprise to us when we enrolled our son in the program, this being his senior year, and he is preparing for college. Now we are suddenly having to come up with $500.00 which we were never told about.


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