After months of grim financial forecasts, University of Wisconsin System leaders presented a much rosier financial outlook this week as campuses settle into another school year shadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Wisconsin state budget is an excruciatingly complicated document that takes your state and federal tax dollars and spends them on programs like food assistance for poor residents, projects like county highway repairs and public employees like school teachers.
This August, faculty, staff, and more than 160,000 students at the 13 University of Wisconsin campuses are hard at work, getting ready for a new academic year. Wisconsinites are justifiably proud of the UW System, and with good reason. Our public university system, built on the foundation of the Wisconsin Idea, truly serves every corner of the state.
Noted: The governor said the session would be an opportunity to make investments in education he believes should have been included in the budget. GOP lawmakers approved an education spending plan that was roughly $750 million less than the governor originally requested for K-12 schools. For the University of Wisconsin System, the GOP-backed budget included an increase of just $8 million over two years, a fraction of the $191 million proposed by the governor.
In his special session call, Evers urged lawmakers to take up a proposal that would allocate an additional $440 million for K-12 schools ($240 million in per-pupil aid and $200 million in special education aid) and an additional $110 million for the University of Wisconsin System and the Wisconsin Technical Colleges System.
Quoted: “This is the strangest thing I’ve ever seen. I have no idea why he did that,” said John Witte, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor emeritus who specializes in tax and budget policy.
Witte said there is speculation that Evers vetoed the change in the withholding tables because the governor hopes Democrats will take control of the Legislature in the 2022 election and repeal the tax cuts. By not changing the withholding tables, most taxpayers wouldn’t notice a difference, that thinking goes.
“If he changed the tables the tax cuts would be permanent,” said Witte.
States around the country are gearing up for projects that could pair engineering schools and industry, but the dean of UW-Madison’s College of Engineering warned this week the state will be at a disadvantage unless there’s more investment in infrastructure needed to compete. “If we don’t act soon, we’re going to lose out,” said Ian Robertson, dean of Madison’s 4,500-student engineering college. “Others are going to get ahead of us. They’re all gearing up to go after the Endless Frontier money. It’s that simple.”
Quoted: Ajay Sethi, professor of population health sciences at UW-Madison, said this scenario is proof the pandemic is not over.
“It’s a good reminder that anybody who is not yet vaccinated against COVID-19 really ought to do so because as soon as you leave your house without a mask, you have a risk of catching the virus,” said Sethi.
Quoted: Barry Burden, director of the Elections Research Center at UW-Madison, agreed the tax cut will likely play to the governor’s advantage during campaign season.
“He will not be easy to paint as a tax-and-spend liberal,” Burden said. “I think (the tax cut) takes the edge off some of the criticism that Republicans would use.”
Changes to the budget made by Republicans include an increase to school spending that’s less than 10% of what Evers requested, a reduction in borrowing for road and infrastructure projects and an end to the University of Wisconsin System’s eight-year-old tuition freeze.
Tuition for in-state undergraduates enrolled at a University of Wisconsin System campus will remain flat over the next school year under a plan put forth by System officials.
Noted: The plan green-lights an expansion of I-94 in Milwaukee and ends the 8-year-old freeze on in-state tuition at University of Wisconsin schools. It also lowers property taxes by about $100 this December for the owner of a typical home.
The centerpiece of the two-year budget is a GOP-authored plan to cut $3.3 billion in income and property taxes, made possible largely by the state’s unprecedented $4.4 billion surplus. The budget also would end an eight-year freeze on University of Wisconsin System tuition and hold K-12 funding largely flat. All in all, the budget would spend about $4 billion less than Evers proposed.
The Assembly late Tuesday passed the $87.5 billion Republican-authored 2021-23 biennial budget, which cuts taxes largely on businesses and the wealthy more than $3 billion, lifts a UW tuition freeze and rejects many of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ top priorities.
Wisconsin Assembly lawmakers voted Tuesday night to approve a two-year state budget that looks very different from the spending plan proposed by Gov. Tony Evers earlier this year.
Assembly Republicans approved a state budget late Tuesday that would cut taxes by more than $3 billion over two years, clear the way for an expansion of I-94 in Milwaukee and end the 8-year-old freeze on in-state tuition at University of Wisconsin schools.
Wisconsin Assembly lawmakers are set to vote Tuesday on a two-year state budget that looks very different from the spending plan proposed by Gov. Tony Evers earlier this year.
Republican lawmakers plan to pass a state budget this week that would cut taxes by more than $3 billion over two years, clear the way for an expansion of I-94 in Milwaukee and end the 8-year-old freeze on in-state tuition at University of Wisconsin schools.
The University of Wisconsin system could see an end to its eight-year tuition freeze. The state budget-writing committee recently declined to extend the freeze, providing the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents the option to increase tuition.
The state Legislature next week will vote on the $87.5 billion GOP-authored biennial budget, which falls almost $3.7 billion short of Gov. Tony Evers’ original proposal.
Quoted: One interpretation of that data, said economist Noah Williams of the conservative Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is that “fraud detection basically dropped to near zero” in 2020.
“We had a huge explosion in claims in 2020, but the actual cases in the state that were referred for fraud fell,” Williams said. “We don’t know how big the problem is, but … I wouldn’t have expected the absolute number of cases to fall.”
The Wisconsin Idea, a fundamental philosophical pillar of the University of Wisconsin, charges the system with serving all parts of the state.
But the system has fallen short in its most populous region — Milwaukee.
Noted: Whether the measures can win the support of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers remains unclear. Evers has said lawmakers need to do more for schools and the University of Wisconsin System before cutting taxes.
In light of the new projections, Evers also announced that an estimated $300 million in cost savings across 18 state agencies — which the governor called for during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic — would be returned to those departments. That includes more than $45 million to the University of Wisconsin System, $5 million to the Wisconsin Technical College System and nearly $25 million to the Department of Children and Families.
A little less than half of the GOP proposal, or nearly $629 million, is earmarked for the University of Wisconsin System. Evers had asked for about $1 billion for UW campuses. Humanities is on track to be demolished by 2030 because the committee approved $88 million for a new academic building that will move many academic departments housed in Humanities to the new facility. A quarter of the cost will be covered through fundraising with the rest supported through state borrowing.
Republican lawmakers on the state Legislature’s budget committee voted Tuesday evening to approve $1.5 billion of Gov. Tony Evers’ $2.4 billion plan for state construction projects, including roughly $629 million of the governor’s $1 billion plan for the University of Wisconsin System.
Republicans on the Legislature’s budget committee agreed Tuesday to spend $1.5 billion over two years for University of Wisconsin buildings and other public facilities.
The building projects Evers wants funded are spread out over 31 counties and include $1 billion for the University of Wisconsin System.
A proposal by state Sen. Roger Roth, R-Appleton, would restructure the UW System into four regions plus UW-Madison. We discuss the vision and what challenges it seeks to address.
Republicans who control the Legislature set in motion a plan Thursday to end the freeze on in-state tuition that has been in place for eight years at University of Wisconsin schools.
The Wisconsin Legislature’s powerful budget committee declined to extend a tuition freeze for in-state undergraduate students, a move that would allow the University of Wisconsin System to raise the costs for attending its institutions for the first time in eight years.
The Republican-controlled budget-writing committee declined to extend a tuition freeze at University of Wisconsin System schools for the next two academic years, setting the stage for students to potentially pay more for their education as soon as this fall.
The Legislature’s Republican-led budget committee has voted to end a University of Wisconsin tuition freeze that has been in place for eight years and long been a GOP priority that had bipartisan support.
Quoted: Evers’ bid to bolster Medicaid is less an “expansion” and more of a “restoration,” according to Donna Friedsam, a researcher with UW-Madison’s Institute for Research on Poverty.
Friedsam says that, prior to the Affordable Care Act, Wisconsin’s medicaid program covered parents and caretaker adults at up to double the federal poverty level.
“So, when the ACA came along, it said all states should cover everybody, no matter who they are, up to a certain level of 138% of the federal poverty level,” she told WORT. In 2021, 138% of the federal poverty level is about $17,700 for a single person.
The president of the Wisconsin Senate doesn’t want to increase general aid for schools in the next two years because they have received billions of dollars in federal aid since 2020.
Noted: The Second District Democrat has requested nine earmarks for road and bridge projects totaling $20 million and 30 earmarks for community projects totaling $56 million. The most expensive of these community projects is a $24 million plant research facility at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, to replace a plant breeding facility that Pocan described as an “outdated World War Two building.”
Some of the other requests: $4 million to support the replacement of a 69-year-old hospital in Darlington (Lafayette County); $2.2 million for technology and equipment for the Baraboo fire and ambulance service; $1 million for a new Madison homeless shelter; $1 million toward a new Center for Black Excellence and Culture in Madison; $2.5 million for traumatic brain injury research at UW-Madison; $220,000 for a Reedsburg community center, $848,000 to upgrade Fitchburg’s stormwater management; and $400,000 for a machine shop and shed at the Wisconsin Cranberry Research Station in Black River Falls.
The leader of the state Senate’s higher education committee is recommending sweeping changes to the University of Wisconsin System, including grouping campuses into four regions and eliminating a longstanding tuition freeze.
Noted: The two-year state budget plan also won’t allow the University of Wisconsin System to borrow for operational expenses, restore collective bargaining for public employees, make Juneteenth a state holiday, create a so-called red flag law for gun owners or adopt maps from the governor’s redistricting commission, among other proposals.
Written by Tim Smeeding, the Lee Rainwater Distinguished Professor of Public Affairs and Economics at the La Follette School of Public Affairs and former director of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Noted: The two-year state budget plan also won’t allow the University of Wisconsin System to borrow for operational expenses, restore collective bargaining for public employees, make Juneteenth a state holiday, create a so-called red flag law for gun owners or adopt maps from the governor’s redistricting commission.
Republicans are also stripping the budget of proposals to allow the University of Wisconsin System to borrow money for operational expenses. They also stripped a provision that would have expanded a tuition promise program to all of the state’s universities and their branch campuses, building off a UW-Madison tuition promise, which provides free tuition to students from families making up to $60,000.
Humanities is the second building this month where UW-Madison officials asked employees working there to leave and then ordered repairs to because of safety concerns.
Column by Thompson, president of the University of Wisconsin System.
Quoted: Republicans in Wisconsin first took their stance when Scott Walker was governor, contending that the federal government eventually could stop paying as much as promised for the expansion.
“There might be a little bit of Scott Walker legacy in all of this,” said Barry Burden, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
’Alumni and supporters of UW-Madison who reach out to their state elected officials are the most convincing advocates for the university,’ UW spokesperson says.
Video tour of Humanities.
Crumbling concrete, rusted rebar and falling facades were among the selling points on a campus tour Monday designed to shore up support for the University of Wisconsin System’s more than $1 billion request to repair or replace aging facilities.
Gov. Tony Evers authorized emergency work on the 19-floor Madison building that houses the University of Wisconsin System’s headquarters Thursday after two precast concrete railing slabs fell from the third floor.
The 10-by-6 foot slabs fell from Van Hise Hall on UW-Madison’s campus Sunday, landing directly in front of the building’s entrance. No one was injured.
Quoted: It’s a step in the right direction, according to Barry Orton, a retired University of Wisconsin-Madison telecommunications professor who has helped local governments with telecom issues.
“The words are good,” Orton said, but the proof will come in the details.
Also included in the budget: $100 million in borrowing for clean energy conservation projects at state agencies and the University of Wisconsin System, helping to meet goals of energy reduction and reduced utility costs. The savings on utility prices would be used to pay off the bonds.
The State Building Commission deadlocked on Gov. Tony Evers’ capital budget Wednesday, which includes over $1 billion in UW System projects.
An example is a $600,000 item buried in Gov. Tony Evers’ $91-billion proposed two-year state budget. The money would expand a six-year-old University of Wisconsin-Madison program designed to tap the expertise and energy of students on the flagship Madison campus to solve problems and improve lives in communities throughout Wisconsin.
Republican lawmakers on Wednesday rejected Gov. Tony Evers’ $2.4 billion spending plan to upgrade buildings across Wisconsin — nearly half of which would be spent on University of Wisconsin System campuses.
The State Building Commission on Wednesday failed to make any recommendation on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ $2.4 billion capital budget, potentially jeopardizing the cost and construction timeline for dozens of state building projects.
Evers’ plan is funded by nearly $2 billion in new borrowing and includes $1 billion for the University of Wisconsin System. Among the projects Republicans rejected were a new state office building in Milwaukee, a host of projects at UW-Madison including the removal of two residence halls, an expansion of the Mendota Mental Health Institute’s Juvenile Treatment Center and more.
Public hearings are planned for April 9 at UW-Whitewater, April 21 at Rhinelander’s Hodag Dome and April 22 at UW-Stout in Menomonie. The budget committee also will host an online session on April 28. The in-person public hearings will take place from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m. and will provide time for attendees to testify.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison hopes to remove two residence halls, relocate 10 departments and programs and ultimately tear down the obsolete Mosse Humanities Building by 2030.
Vos also rejected Evers’ 2021-23 capital budget, which proposes spending about $2.4 billion over the next two years on state building projects, with about $1 billion of that going to the University of Wisconsin System.
Interim University of Wisconsin System President Tommy Thompson and UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank teamed up Wednesday to address the Wisconsin Counties Association at its annual legislative exchange, responding to the governor’s budget announcement and sharing financial updates.
The University of Wisconsin System leadership praised Gov. Tony Evers 2021-2023 budget proposed last week, as it nearly doubled the already-ambitious initial request to help UW pull out of its financial deficit.