E-mail message to the
February 18, 2003
Report following the Governor's budget address
I am sure many were tuned in to hear Governor Doyle's address last night. UW
System was the Governor's "poster child" for budgetary pain.
Wisconsin faces a budget deficit the likes of which
we have never seen before. And, Governor Doyle has proposed a cut for the UW
System that is larger than our world class system has ever before experienced.
The UW System budget would be cut, over the biennium, by $250 million in State
The amount is staggering, equal to the entire combined
GPR budgets of UWGB, UW-Platteville, UW-River Falls, and all 13 UW Colleges
in the first year of the biennium; add in all state support for UW-Milwaukee
in year two of the biennium, and we just begin to reach the $250M mark. And,
this comes after absorbing, this year, a budget reduction of $52M in state support.
We had expected that the approach to addressing the
State's budget problem would be characterized by fairness. The very real structural
deficit is the result of a series of programmatic commitments and tax cuts for
which long-term finance was not really available. Come time to face the music,
and the proposal is to cut from other areas, principally higher education. And,
it is not simply that the "make up" is coming from areas not responsible
for the structural deficit problem. On top of that inequity, higher education
gets a disproportionate cut. The GPR budget for the entire UW System comprises
9.3% of total State GPR; Governor Doyle has proposed a budget for the next biennium
that has us taking 38% of the actual GPR cuts in the Governor's budget.
So, what will the impact be for our campus? I am told
that, given past experiences, it will be several weeks before we have the system-level
number disaggregated to campus-based cuts. However, there is no way to put a
gloss on this. And, we certainly should not do so. Our capacity to serve our
region and our students is going to be seriously reduced.
Just how seriously depends upon two things: the fate
of a tuition/financial aid package included in the Governor's budget and just
what happens as the Legislature deliberates on and acts upon the budget.
The tuition/financial aid package, as painful as it
will be for our students, is essential if we are to remain part of the long-term
solution to Wisconsin's economic challenges. Without the offset, as a system
we would lose several thousand faculty and staff and, thereby, the capacity
to serve more than twenty thousand students. With the offset, serious reductions
remain but not of such a staggering magnitude.
As we think about the legislative phase, the Governor's
budget, as bleak as it is, is likely the best outcome we can hope for. It will
be a fight to protect it. It will be a political fight.
The political scientist in me cannot help but point
out the political dimension. Looking at the overall proposed budget - who got
cut, who did not - and one sees a topographical map of the political power centers
in Wisconsin. There is the K-12 mountain range and various other ridges and
peaks. And, the contour lines as clearly demark the higher education sink hole.
We must effectively organize to influence our democratic
form of government. Goodness knows we have tried. Participation in the most
recent effort (Friends of Higher Education) was very disappointing. There is
a lesson here for the longer term, though: expecting to be supported for simply
doing well is not how it works; we must be willing to join together in organizations
designed to fight for what we know to be critical to the future of our State.
Opportunities will begin soon. President Lyall and
the Regents propose to hold a series of budget hearings throughout the State
and over the next six weeks. They will be assessing the budget choices that
each campus faces.
We certainly will be heard.
The Governor's budget plan gives us a starting place.
At UWGB, we will be engaging in a budget process that focuses upon the budget
as proposed by the Governor. We will likely consider several scenarios connected
to what may or may not happen concerning tuition. Expect some of these scenarios
to be bleak indeed.
I do hope that, in the end, the leadership of the State
will find approaches to protect their long investment in a University of Wisconsin
system that is the door to brighter futures for the whole State. Hope alone
will not make that happen. Certainly, the Governor's approach - combining as
it does a serious cut with a tuition/financial aid package - makes an attempt
at this in a very serious budgetary situation. We have excellent local legislative
representatives. We must work with them to see that the State's path to brighter
futures is kept clearly open.
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