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Gov. Walker’s UW System public authority comment: Much ado about nothing, or something?

by Noel Radomski, WISCAPE Director and Associate Researcher | Jun 3, 2016
​Summer blockbuster movies haven’t been released, many K-12 schools are still in session, the Republican and Democratic national conventions haven’t taken place, and the Green Bay Packers preseason practices haven’t begun​. However, it is not too early for speculation on Wisconsin's 2017-2019 biennial budget.

State agencies have until the fall to submit their biennial budget requests to the Department of Administration​. ​However, in the first week of June, Gov​. Walker and several legislators floated early test balloons associated with the Wisconsin transportation budget (click here and here). A newspaper even published an editorial.

The governor has also introduced the issue of future funding ​for the UW System. First, the governor hinted the state’s public higher education systems could see more support. Second, he mentioned the possibility that the UW System budget could include performance-based funding. Finally, and perhaps most intriguing, Gov. Walker brought up the idea of a public authority​ --​ which he proposed in the 2015-2017 biennial budget, but the legislature voted it down. As Jessie Opoien wrote in her June 3rd Capital Times article:

In his original 2015-17 budget proposal, Walker called for a $300 million cut to the UW System in exchange for more autonomy by restructuring it into a public authority governed by the Board of Regents.

The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee shot down the public authority proposal, and Walker said Thursday he's still not sure it would have enough support from lawmakers to pass.

"I’d love to do that, the question is whether or not it has any chances of happening in the Legislature," he said. "The UW System and individual campuses would be a lot different today if they’d approved what we put in place in the first place. It would’ve given incredible flexibility not only to the system as a whole but to individual chancellors and campuses."

Was Governor Walker’s statement about the public authority an ardent chess move to detract attention away from recent headlines about the Wisconsin Idea and the UW System in the last biennial budget (click here and here)? Or was ​it a test balloon to generate a reaction from the legislators who voted down the proposal two years ago?

​Even in these early days of summer, Wisconsinites ​should ​​stay attuned to politics of the biennial budget​.

What are your thoughts? Please comment using the form below or email us.

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2 comments

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  1. Meg McWhorter
    8-19-2016
    How do we make Wisconsinites see the damage he will cause if left in office?

  2. wondering
    6-6-2016
    In what ways would a public authority differ from the present system? The Board of Regents as well as chancellors change frequently. Would that mean even more frequent disruption in terms of operations of the UW? Does it mean even more power concentrated at the top administration level and away from campuses?

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